Paying Our Respects

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tyler and I attended Tim Russert's wake yesterday evening to pay our respects to he and his family. It was held at St. Alban's School where his son Luke attended school for thirteen years. We got there around 7 pm and the wake had been going on since 2 pm, so we started to get a little nervous once we parked because we didn't want to be the ONLY people there and we didn't see that many people walking around in the area. Apparently, we just had great timing. We were able to walk right into the school and join the line. Once inside, we did have to wait in a pretty decent line, but after about five minutes of waiting we looked out the window and a huge line had formed, wrapping around the building.

The school was very pretty, exactly what you'd picture a prominent, Episcopalian all-boys school to look like. The hallway where we were waiting was lined with arched, stained glass windows and plaques from the early 1900s; it was something straight from a Harry Potter movie. The sidewalks leading up to the refectory (where we were) were lined with flowers and we were handed a small card once we got inside that had a picture of Tim on it with his birth and death dates, and a quote that read, "No exercise is better for the human heart than reaching down to lift up another person." The prayer of St. Francis of Assisi was on the back.

Once inside the dining hall, Tim's casket lay in the center of the room with lines passing on either side. Flowers rested on top with a card sticking out reading "Love, Coco & Luke." Various family members stood throughout the room greeting the visitors in line and Luke stood at the end of the room where the two lines merged and he greeted every person that came through (apparently Tim's wife was there earlier, but understandably needed a break). I was SO impressed with this young man and the composure and maturity he's shown in the last few days. I thought it spoke volumes to how he was raised and I just kept thinking, "His dad would be so proud of him."

I was pretty composed until the woman behind me broke down while speaking with his niece. She asked how his father ("Big Russ") was taking it. Apparently, Tim's brother, her father, passed away just two months ago, so Big Russ lost two of boys very close together. So now I'm crying but I didn't have a purse or any tissues, so I was trying not to get out of control. The card with his wife's pet name, his impressive son, others in the room who were clearly upset...it was almost too much. We were about three people from Luke when he turned and thanked everyone for coming and exited to a small back room. I didn't blame the guy and I was almost relieved because I did NOT know what to say to him. And I felt so silly for crying, while all of his family members so composed and gracious to everyone. There were tables lined up outside of the hall with paper and pen to leave messages for the family, so we left a short note. Tim would probably have been embarressed by all of the fuss, but honored by the turnout.

On a lighter note, a fun distraction was seeing all of the big wigs that were there. Maria Shriver cut me off in line, Wolf Blitzer and Bret Baier came in together, and John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry were in line with us. I was impressed with Maria Shriver because she just walked right in without any security or entourage. John Kerry is very tall and very tan and his wife has a LOT of hair. St. Alban's is right next to the National Cathedral and the sunset was gorgeous last night. The colors reflecting off the building were SO pretty. I was really frustrated with myself when I realized I'd left my camera at home. Oh well. We live here, we'll be back...

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