2437AP: Priest Describes Johnson's Last Moments
- Jul 15, 2007http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/12/AR2007071201507.html
Priest Describes Johnson's Last Moments
By KELLEY SHANNON
The Associated Press
Thursday, July 12, 2007; 4:48 PM
AUSTIN, Texas -- Lady Bird Johnson died amid song and prayer as she
spent her last moments with her two daughters, other family and
friends at her bedside, a priest said Thursday.
"It was a beautiful scene, truly," said the Rev. Bob Scott, a friend
of the family who was called to the former first lady's Austin home
Wednesday and was present when she died at age 94.
Johnson, the widow of President Lyndon B. Johnson, is Episcopalian.
She and her family knew Scott for years because of his association
with St. Austin's Catholic School, attended by some of her grandchildren.
Scott, called by Johnson's daughter Luci Baines Johnson and
granddaughter Nicole Covert, was told that she was in a coma and close
to death, he said in a news conference Thursday.
When he arrived at her home overlooking the city, the
multi-denominational group of about a dozen people asked that he lead
them in prayer. He said he suggested giving Johnson a welcome into
heaven, and he read the prayer "Litany of the Saints."
After each saint's name was read, the group responded, "Pray for
Claudia," Johnson's given first name. As soon as he finished the
prayer, a nurse at the head of the bed said, "She has passed," Scott
said. "At that very moment."
There was also a hymn, sung at the behest of Johnson's older daughter,
Lynda Johnson Robb. Scott said he couldn't recall the name of the hymn.
"It just seemed to be sort a song of triumph, to me," he said. "It was
something that both Catholics and Protestants sing together. We all
knew the words, so that was surprising."
He said Johnson was unconscious before she died, and that her death
"Even though death scenes are not exactly enjoyable ... the meaning of
it was so beautiful, the faith of these people," Scott said. "The Holy
Spirit sort of works with us once in a while, gets us to do what we
should do at the proper moment and for the proper situation. I felt
myself blessed to be there."
Johnson's family members are declining to speak publicly this week.
But Luci Baines Johnson issued a statement Thursday through a family
spokesman thanking her mother's caregivers and "all who ministered to
her at the hour of her ascension into heaven."
A series of services to remember the former first lady will begin
Friday with a private family Eucharist at her beloved Lady Bird
Johnson Wildflower Center. Johnson, an environmentalist devoted to
preserving wildflowers and native plants, founded the center in 1982
on her 70th birthday.
On Thursday, admirers of Johnson visited the center to remember her
and sign a condolence guest book. She last visited the center in May
for its annual fundraising gala.
"Everybody around here today sort of has wet eyes," said Marsha
Bissett, 70, a volunteer clerk in the center's gift shop. "There goes
one of the great ones."
The public can visit her casket at the LBJ Library and Museum at the
University of Texas, where she will lie in repose beginning at 1:15
p.m. Friday until 11:30 a.m. Saturday. It will be in the same spot at
the library where her husband's casket rested after his death in 1973.
An invitation-only funeral, which will be televised, will be held
Saturday, and she will be buried Sunday next to her husband at the
family ranch in Stonewall.
Associated Press writer April Castro contributed to this report.