While watching President & Patriot George H.W. Bush’s funeral today many memories came back to me.
In the 1960’s, my father, Alton Hardy Howard, would come home from work dressed in a sharp suit. He would pull into our driveway in his black and white Oldsmobile. Janice and I would run to the car with excitement as he would place us up on the big hood of the car. We took turns jumping off into his arms. He would shout out loud, “Happy days are here again, yay!!!” We squealed with delight.
On summer days we got to stay up late. The Star Spangled Banner played over our black and white tv while the American flag waved proudly telling us good night. If you left your TV on, you heard loud static for the rest of the night. There was no such thing as a remote, so somebody would have to get up to turn the TV off.
Parents had no concern of kids watching unwholesome shows during the middle of the night. The world was quiet while we were tucked in our beds having sweet dreams. In my mind, the world was a safe gentle and good place.
I knew nothing of World War II and that my dad was a navigator on a bomber plane. The year I was born in 1957, the U.S. Treasury started printing our money with the motto, “In God We Trust.” This same year the Soviets launched Sputnik, the first satellite, which alarmed the world that they could attack anybody at a moment’s notice. So our country started building our own nuclear warheads. But I knew none of this.
My dad built a nuclear shelter underground in our back yard. There were bunk beds, canned food and water stacked against the walls. But nobody ever talked about it. I just thought it was a cool playhouse underground. I loved to climb up the huge pine trees in our back yard to look out over my world.
When I was 6 years old on Nov. 22, 1963, my dad came home early from work. I lay on the couch with him watching President Kennedy’s limousine with a line of black cars surrounding him slowing driving down the streets of downtown Dallas, Texas. The beautiful First Lady fascinated me with her fancy pink outfit. She was carrying a bouquet of red roses waving at the crowds.
Then the sound of gunshots echoed around the world. We watched in disbelief and horror. Two days later we watched the President’s flag draped coffin carried out of the White House.
Those days shook my world for the first time. I hadn’t known about death yet. I didn’t know the world wasn’t always a safe place.
Things changed for me on that day in first grade. I remember crying every day after that not wanting to go to school the rest of first grade that year. I remember my teacher sternly telling me, “If you’re going to cry, just lay your head down on your desk and don’t get up until you are through crying.” So I kept my head down a lot that year. I never talked to anybody about being afraid. I guess I just didn’t understand how to express what I was feeling.
Then on April 4, 1968, when I was in 6th grade, I heard Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. I didn’t understand the racial strife going on. The church we attended always welcomed colors of all people groups. I was taught we would be in Heaven together so we must love all people while on this earth too. I remember in shock when the KKK burned crosses in front of our church. That didn’t stop our church from loving all people though.
Today I pray for peace on earth. I use to be afraid over many things. Today, I choose to live fearless. No matter what happens in the here and now on this earth, God has replaced my fears with His spirit of power and love. I choose daily to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.
Our prayers are lifting up the Bush family today.
“Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up. All you who wait on the Lord.” Psalm 31:24