Opening words by Nina Sandlin
Friends, I am so grateful to everyone who is here, and to all those who are here despite not bein able to be physically present. As you may have noticed, today is the first day of the Air and Water Show – Chicago’s most popular summer event. If you are speaking, or reading, or praying, and there is a flyover – do not be flustered. We will just stop, and have an unscheduled moment of reflection, and then go right on.
I want to welcome you to this beautiful place. It is so Chicago, with Cubs Park and the Clarks Street bus rgiht here, yet so timeless and so other. In bringing Lee’s ashes here, I wanted to not only give him a proper resting place, but to dedicate a place that would belong to all of us, where we can always visit and honor Lee.
I want to tell you a little bit about Graceland. Great men are buried here. The architect Mies van der Rohe. Jack Johnson, the son of ex-slaves, who was the first black man to become heavyweight boxing champion of the world. Joseph Medill, who owned the Chicago Tribune; our journalism school here at Northwestern is named for him. The list goes on and on.
But the two graves in particular that spoke to me, when I first knew that I wanted Lee to be here, both belong to women. Kate Warne was the first female private detective in America. She worked for the Pinkerton agency. She saved the life of president-elect Lincoln when he was on his way to assume office. Just think if that had gone differently. She died at the age 38 of pneumonia and is buried – over there – with several other Pinkerton employees. Allan Pinkerton is there too.
Katharine Dexter McCormick was an heiress. She married into the tractor fortune. She was MIT's second woman graduate. As a young women’s rights activist, she smuggled more than 1,000 diaphragms from Europe into New York. This was at time when it was illegal even to tell someone that such a thing as birth control existed. Later, seeing that pharmaceutical companies had no interest at all in contraceptives, she financed – almost single-handedly – the research that gave us the birth control pill.
Lee would’ve loved these stories. And – I did not know until after I married him – he was fourth-generation Chicago.
I am fond of this place, with its history, its many graves the magnificent ones and the humble ones, its trees, its sky, and its coyotes. I know that many think of a burial as a final service. But to me, this also the beginning of a time when we always have this place – to visit, and to commune with Lee. I was enchanted to discover that our sycamore is easily recognizable from inside a moving train on the Red Line. So we Chicagoans can perform a little respectful flyover as we zoom through our every-day lives. And for those times when you want to sit and commune with Lee, Graceland is open seven days a week. And besides – for a writer, so long as you are able to share his work, and introduce new people to it – there is no such thing as a final service. Our service continues.
And now, Rev. Elizabeth Harding will be leading our committal service.