My wife and I were among a small group invited by President Lyndon Johnson to tour the White House on the last Sunday of his presidency. The president met us in the Cabinet Room and then turned us over to an aide. He explained that he had to go to the Rose Garden, where the Marine Band was playing a final salute for him.
That evening in our hotel room we watched the ceremony on the late news. I was startled when the announcer stumbled while explaining that the song the band played was named for the river by the LBJ ranch in Texas. “It’s the Perdenales Waltz”, he said. “No, sorry…the Perdernales…uhhh…the Padernales…”.
Confused, he paused, then said, “Oh well, I guess it doesn’t matter now!”
My first reaction was What a gratuitous insult to the office of the presidency, and the man. Then I thought, Sic transit gloria.
So quickly the trappings of power go.
That poignant scene stayed with me and came back to my mind when I was in my early sixties and thoughts of mortality began to occupy me. I was brought up short when a friend told me, “I don’t think you’re afraid to die. I think you’re afraid to die before you have truly lived”.
Those words challenged me to a new kind of discernment, to ask, What must I let go? What should I hold more closely? And to what could I reach out more hopefully?
Consider the questions in that last paragraph for yourself….what must you let go now – in your 30’s…or 50s….or 70s?
And to what should you hold on to more closely?
Adapted from The Attentive Life by Leighton Ford (2008, InterVarsity)