The Hardest Service

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A beautifully written article in today's Washington Post by Neely Tucker reminds us of the last, hardest, public service that is rendered by a former First Lady. That of burying her husband in the full glare of publicity. Betty Ford has performed that service with dignity and grace.

Betty Ford, observed in these days of national mourning:

Frail. Determined. Quiet. Tired.

She was 88 and clearly exhausted.

She was resting on the arm of the president of the United States when she emerged from the darkness of Washington National Cathedral into the weak January sunlight yesterday, following her husband's coffin. She did not speak during the service, except to turn to her daughter, Susan, and mouth the word "beautiful" after a moving rendition of "O God, Our Help in Ages Past." She was surrounded by family, including her three sons.

She will bury her husband today on a hillside back home in Michigan.

Then, three decades after leaving the White House, she will finally be relieved of the duties of being first lady, a job that comes with no description but endless expectations. The final duty is burying one's husband under the glare of public attention. This has become a de facto job requirement in the past century, when first ladies began to routinely outlive their husbands.

Please read the whole thing. And spare a thought or a prayer for Betty Ford and the Ford Family who served this country in their unelected yet required duties so well these past days.

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