Michael Brendan Dougherty has an incredibly thoughtful profile of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. (I got to sit a few chairs down from him at Friday’s CPAC banquet.) Sanford’s speech (I’m poking around for a copy) was breathtaking. I know others who didn’t think the same way — and I think it may have just been my proximity. I’ve never really seen anyone speak so naturally. Most people,w hen they give a speech, it looks like they’re performing oratory. Sanford, on the other hand, looked like he was talking to a group of friends, not a gigantic audience.
There is something supremely genuine about the man. I asked him after the dinner where he learned to speak. His reply was humble and jokey: “Frankly, I’m still trying to figure it out.” Obviously he’s not trying to figure it out, but any other answer would have come off as didactic. He preferred to just offer something low-key.
So when Dougherty profiles Governor Sanford, he naturally comes up with the impression of an unusual politician — a man who doesn’t see the world around him as a platform for his own views.
That impression really goes far when the governor describes lowering his father into the earth:
You hammer the nails closed, you carry it out there in the back of the pickup to a certain part of the farm. You lower the thing down there. You and your brothers do it on your own, and then grab shovels. We say a little prayer, fill the grave, walk back up to the house. It was an intensely personal experience that really hit home for me: you ain’t taking any of this stuff with you.
While this post might have seemed like it was going the direction of talking about Sanford’s political future, I’m more interested in the act of lowering your own parent into the grave… the digging, the work of it. I’m sure that most parents would quirk their eye at the thought of forcing their children to put work into laying them to rest. But there is something in the work that makes it… poetic. I would imagine that it impacts you in a way that may be more intimate, perhaps also grisly, than waiting as others do it.