Little more than a week ago we stood in groups along Cesar Chavez, watching Lady Bird Johnson’s funeral cortege make its way to her final resting place in her beloved Texas Hill Country. The funeral route passed near Town Lake’s hike and bike trail, one of many Austin locations where wildflowers thrive, providing colorful evidence of her living legacy of beauty.
For many of us, Lady Bird will always be the First Lady of Texas. That Sunday morning, I thought about another day many years ago in Frost Brothers’ Ladies Dresses at Northcross Mall. I had had wonderful luck that afternoon, finding not one new dress but two, and was standing at the check out counter. Already my mind was moving from “shopping” to “whatever-will-we have-for-dinner.”
Suddenly I became aware that the normal bustle and movement of the store had stopped. Totally ceased. What had been a hub of activity was now filled with — silence. I looked around, and there she was, right beside me. It was undoubtedly Lady Bird Johnson, just completing a purchase.
Now I always thought I was above invading a public figure’s privacy. I’d always believed if I found myself face to face with someone of her stature, I would at most nod, smile, and pass on. But I could not. As she turned to leave, I realized I might never again such an opportunity, and I spoke to her.
I hope I said something like “Mrs. Johnson, thank you for all you have done,” but for the life of me, I can’t remember. But I will never forget her gracious response. She looked at me, smiled her beautiful smile, and said, “It has been a very interesting life.” Then, not hurrying, she continued on her way. I treasure that memory.
I was right. I never again had the opportunity to thank her in person, but I think of Mrs. Johnson with gratitude each time I see a field of Texas wild flowers or visit the Wildflower Center.