Monday, May 12, 2008

The President comes to Greensburg...and sadly, so do we

Like the end of 2007, (and because we're an academic family and measure our year's pace by semesters - the end of the Fall semester) we ended the Spring semester of 2008 with a funeral.
Irene Unruh came to Kansas by way of covered wagon. She lived in and out of the great plains and then some of the last of her 101 years in Greensburg, Kansas - the tiny town that was destroyed in the great tornado of May 2007.

The middle of the country is truly a different place. Julia's Grandmother was a different kind of woman. It was apparent when you met her that there wasn't anyone you'd meet anywhere who was more gracious, accommodating and lovely as Irene was. She was a servant of others. It's hard to imagine in this era a person being entirely selfless as she was - it's just not how society is today. I also don't think its so possible now either. I'd have a hard time thinking my wife and daughter couldn't be or do just about anything they'd want to, yet I know that in her time, Irene's options in the middle of Kansas were limited by others and the general sense of what women could do at the time. Yet, when you met her she was someone entirely at peace with who she was. It would never occur to her there were options. Her life was a living example of service to others. She was married to the same man for 74 years. They raised a family and grew gardens in the tough soil of Kansas. They went fishing. They had a simple, tough, happy life. Irene lived for 101 years. She was a great woman.

So, we drove 1000 miles to Greensburg, Kansas for the funeral of Irene Unruh which was interrupted by a Presidential visit. In 2007, George Bush came to Greensburg to see the damage and offer help for those affected (which was pretty much everyone in the town). He said then, "A lot of us have seen the pictures of what happened here, and the pictures don't do it justice." I'd have to agree but here are a few I took. These are pictures from a year after the storm:

The President returned last week for the one-year anniversary of the tornado. He gave the commencement at Greensburg High School and talked about how the students futures are rooted to the future of their town, their loved ones, their faith and in service to others. I might disagree with George Bush about almost everything politically but I didn't have trouble finding value in what he said to the students there. I think it was a speech that ought to be printed and given to every student that graduates this year - everywhere in our country. Consider service to others and our futures will be built together stronger. Sometimes most of us need reminders. It's something Irene lived without ever thinking of.

Ina Irene Unruh - October 22, 1906-May 1, 2008

My pictures of a more lush Greensburg here.

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