I attempted today to write to a separate category, for my dream reader, on the subject of one of the travels I have taken. It became a much more daunting task than I expected, and I found myself trying to decipher a new form of web design instead of writing. So here I refocus the attempt into one aspect of last summer’s road trip: My walk through the tomb of a tremendous American president.
So, reader, rather than inspire you to visit Springfield, Illinois, by blandly retracing my own steps through it and sharing information that you can easily find elsewhere on the web, I call out to you my most endearing moment of the trip, and let that alone stand as reason to see the town.
So reads the sign between the parking lot and Lincoln’s tomb. Tourist attraction, yes, but it is also a final resting place–of an entire family–among the final resting places of many other souls nearby, and deserved of quiet observation. Not play; not cell phone calls. Silence and respect. That is before you even go inside.
There is a bronze bust outside that begs you to take a moment for a lucky rub of the nose, a photo op that cannot be missed. But once inside, selfies should cease. Our cameras clicked away only at the many sculpture originals and reproductions that ring the corridors of the monument, and took a solemn image at the family crypt and the grave of the President.
During a 2010 vacation in our nation’s capital, we took a walking tour along the route of the investigation immediately following Lincoln’s assassination. For me, it was one of the highlights of our whole vacation. But after that experience of the plot to end his life, and my reading the events of his final weeks in Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln last year, our first two days in Springfield were about getting to know the man that he was. Doing so brought a feeling of attachment; a personal connection to an enormous historical figure. By the time we reached the Lincoln Tomb, silence and respect were not a problem.
Each of the sculptures inside had a title and, if reproduced, a location of the original. His likeness is represented well across the country, and even in Westminster Abbey. Just inside the entrance is a small-scale version of the seated president we saw years earlier on the National Mall in DC. The others depict his many occupations in life, from circuit rider and lawyer, to militia man, debater, and legislator. In the center of the monument sits the vault containing Mary, Tad, Willie and Eddie, and a marker honoring Robert, who is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Across from the four lies the grave of Abraham Lincoln, and it couldn’t be more fitting in its glory.
There are stories about how many times the President’s sarcophagus was opened–mostly to verify that he was actually inside it–and that he was embalmed multiple times. Finally he was placed 10 feet below the ground, encased in wire and cement, never to be touched again. You are allowed no closer than ten feet away from the base of his marble marker. But even at this distance, I felt close. I paid my respects. Rest in peace, Mr. President.
Today, you are my dream reader.