Former first lady Rosalynn Carter, 96, will be laid to rest in Georgia this coming Wednesday following services at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church at Emory University on Tuesday and the next day at Maranatha Baptist Church, the couple’s longtime congregation.
Up until Mrs. Carter’s death last week, the Carters, who were married for 77 years, having lived nearby in the same two-bedroom home (minus President Carter’s time in elected office) since 1961. In fact, the residence is so modest that the armored Secret Service vehicles outside have been worth more than the house and property itself.
Funerals have long served as a public forum to honor someone’s life as well as provide loved ones and friends an opportunity for closure and a chance to say goodbye. Services for Christian believers, while still sad, should be seen as a celebration, as well as a triumphant sendoff to the best yet to come.
Former President Carter, 99, arrived at Tuesday’s service in a wheelchair. He’s been in hospice care since February. Frail and covered by a blanket, he didn’t speak at the service, but he insisted on attending – one final gesture of his love and loyalty to his beloved wife.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden were also in attendance, along with former President Clinton. All the other living former first ladies were also there – Melania Trump, Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton.
“My mother was the glue that held our family together through the ups and downs and thicks and thins of our family’s politics,” said son James Earl “Chip” Carter III.
Some reporters and commentators were surprised that Mrs. Trump was invited and attended. Writer Jennifer Graham reflected, “The gesture was an olive branch to Trump supporters, but more than that: It was also a genteel, Southern mother’s way of showing an unruly nation how to behave.”
Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump were also invited but did not attend.
It’s refreshing to see men and women of various parties and perspectives gather to pay tribute to a former and fellow public servant. In some ways, it harkened back to a more functional time when political differences could be set down for a spell and instead focus on the person and not the party.
Writing to believers in Rome, the apostle Paul urged his fellow Christians to “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Romans 12:17-19).
Extending civility doesn’t equate to compromise. We can disagree strongly with a person’s policies and even more and yet still extend to them Christian kindness. In fact, doing so might very well be the strongest form of witness.
We extend our sympathies and condolences to the Carter family and pray they feel the Lord’s close presence in their time of grief.
Image from Getty.