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  • Writer's pictureNeal Spelce

LBJ Birthday Wreath Ceremony 2021

Reflections in a Cemetery – of a Different Sort

Most visitors to a cemetery reflect about those who are buried there. Personal, private thoughts. But my recent visit to the cemetery on the LBJ Ranch where President and Mrs. Lyndon Johnson are buried brought back memories about what happened at the burial events themselves. Memories that have been lying dormant, for the most part, dating as far back as 1973.

Stonewall, Texas - Burial place of President and Mrs. Johnson

Weather was an overriding factor when LBJ was buried and weather, of a different kind, 34 years later when Mrs. Johnson was laid to rest beside her husband, also was an important part of the proceedings. And, interestingly, after decades of reflection, the differing weather conditions were entirely appropriate for the lives of the former First Couple.

LBJ Library photo by Frank Wolfe

LBJ began his presidency at the moment of one of the most tragic times in American history – the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. His entire presidency seemed to surge forward with one controversy after another, with the US involvement in the war in Vietnam ever-present. Even after his presidency, his last public words were uttered in the LBJ Library in Austin during a sometimes-intense symposium spotlighting civil rights problems.

How fitting was the weather at the time of his burial in January 1973? It was bitterly cold, blustery, and wet in his beloved Hill Country at the LBJ Ranch. I shivered through three days of planning and supervising the burial. But the service came off without a hitch, in spite of the “appropriate” weather.

Mrs. Johnson outlived her husband by 34 years, continuing the work she began in the White House, focusing in large and small ways, on improving the environment. One of her most visible accomplishments can be seen as wildflowers emerge each spring along roadways and in the work at the University of Texas Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

The weather at the time of her burial in July 2007? A soft rain was prevalent, nourishing the Texas soil. A soft rain for a soft-spoken genteel lady who loved the outdoors her entire life. As a family spokesperson, I was asked by a reporter if the rain would spoil the services and I replied “No, Mrs. Johnson would love the rain.”

Memory is a wonderful thing. And it is very interesting how our brains recall certain details of significant developments in our lives.

Weather is such an important part of our daily lives, I guess it is not surprising that it colors our memories. But isn’t it fascinating how weather can sometimes be so appropriate?

It was an honor to deliver the keynote speech at the wreath laying ceremony honoring President Johnson's birthday.

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