Eulogies for President Ronald Reagan


Eulogies for President Ronald Reagan

Delivered at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on June 11, 2004

President George W. Bush
Former President George H.W. Bush
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney

Remarks by Ronald Reagan's children




United States of America President George W. Bush's eulogy to President Reagan: 
Mrs Reagan, Patti, Michael, and Ron; members of the Reagan family; distinguished guests, including our presidents and first ladies; Reverend Danforth; fellow citizens:
We lost Ronald Reagan only days ago, but we have missed him for a long time. We have missed his kindly presence, that reassuring voice, and the happy ending we had wished for him. It has been 10 years since he said his own farewell; yet it is still very sad and hard to let him go. Ronald Reagan belongs to the ages now, but we preferred it when he belonged to us.
In a life of good fortune, he valued above all the gracious gift of his wife, Nancy. During his career, Ronald Reagan passed through a thousand crowded places; but there was only one person, he said, who could make him lonely by just leaving the room.
America honours you, Nancy, for the loyalty and love you gave this man on a wonderful journey, and to that journey's end. Today, our whole nation grieves with you and your family.
'All-American, good guy'
When the sun sets tonight off the coast of California, and we lay to rest our 40th president, a great American story will close. The second son of Nell and Jack Reagan first knew the world as a place of open plains, quiet streets, gas-lit rooms, and carriages drawn by horse.
If you could go back to the Dixon, Illinois of 1922, you'd find a boy of 11 reading adventure stories at the public library, or running with his brother, Neil, along Rock River, and coming home to a little house on Hennepin Avenue. That town was the kind of place you remember where you prayed side by side with your neighbours, and if things were going wrong for them, you prayed for them, and knew they'd pray for you if things went wrong for you.
 He believed in taking a break now and then, because, as he said, there's nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse

The Reagan family would see its share of hardship, struggle and uncertainty. And out of that circumstance came a young man of steadiness, calm, and a cheerful confidence that life would bring good things. The qualities all of us have seen in Ronald Reagan were first spotted 70 and 80 years ago.
As a lifeguard in Lowell Park, he was the protector keeping an eye out for trouble. As a sports announcer on the radio, he was the friendly voice that made you see the game as he did. As an actor, he was the handsome, all-American, good guy, which, in his case, required knowing his lines - and being himself.
Along the way, certain convictions were formed and fixed in the man. Ronald Reagan believed that everything happened for a reason, and that we should strive to know and do the will of God. He believed that the gentleman always does the kindest thing. He believed that people were basically good, and had the right to be free. He believed that bigotry and prejudice were the worst things a person could be guilty of. He believed in the Golden Rule and in the power of prayer. He believed that America was not just a place in the world, but the hope of the world.
And he believed in taking a break now and then, because, as he said, there's nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.
'President of what?'
Ronald Reagan spent decades in the film industry and in politics, fields known, on occasion, to change a man. But not this man. From Dixon to Des Moines, to Hollywood to Sacramento, to Washington, DC, all who met him remembered the same sincere, honest, upright fellow. Ronald Reagan's deepest beliefs never had much to do with fashion or convenience. His convictions were always politely stated, affably argued, and as firm and straight as the columns of this cathedral.
 He spoke of Communist rulers as slavemasters, of a government in Washington that had far overstepped its proper limits, of a time for choosing that was drawing near

There came a point in Ronald Reagan's film career when people started seeing a future beyond the movies. The actor, Robert Cummings, recalled one occasion.
"I was sitting around the set with all these people and we were listening to Ronnie, quite absorbed. I said: 'Ron, have you ever considered someday becoming president?' He said: 'President of what?' 'President of the United States,' I said. And he said, 'What's the matter, don't you like my acting either?'"
The clarity and intensity of Ronald Reagan's convictions led to speaking engagements around the country, and a new following he did not seek or expect. He often began his speeches by saying: "I'm going to talk about controversial things." And then he spoke of Communist rulers as slavemasters, of a government in Washington that had far overstepped its proper limits, of a time for choosing that was drawing near. In the space of a few years, he took ideas and principles that were mainly found in journals and books, and turned them into a broad, hopeful movement ready to govern.
As soon as Ronald Reagan became California's governor, observers saw a star in the West - tanned, well-tailored, in command, and on his way. In the 1960s, his friend, Bill Buckley, wrote: "Reagan is indisputably a part of America, and he may become a part of American history."
Great hopes
Ronald Reagan's moment arrived in 1980. He came out ahead of some very good men, including one from Plains, and one from Houston. What followed was one of the decisive decades of the century, as the convictions that shaped the president began to shape the times.
 When he saw evil camped across the horizon, he called that evil by its name

He came to office with great hopes for America, and more than hopes - like the president he had revered and once saw in person, Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan matched an optimistic temperament with bold, persistent action.
President Reagan was optimistic about the great promise of economic reform, and he acted to restore the reward and spirit of enterprise. He was optimistic that a strong America could advance the peace, and he acted to build the strength that mission required. He was optimistic that liberty would thrive wherever it was planted, and he acted to defend liberty wherever it was threatened.
And Ronald Reagan believed in the power of truth in the conduct of world affairs. When he saw evil camped across the horizon, he called that evil by its name. There were no doubters in the prisons and gulags, where dissidents spread the news, tapping to each other in code what the American president had dared to say. There were no doubters in the shipyards and churches and secret labour meetings, where brave men and women began to hear the creaking and rumbling of a collapsing empire. And there were no doubters among those who swung hammers at the hated wall as the first and hardest blow had been struck by President Ronald Reagan.
'Courtly, gentle and considerate'
The ideology he opposed throughout his political life insisted that history was moved by impersonal ties and unalterable fates. Ronald Reagan believed instead in the courage and triumph of free men. And we believe it, all the more, because we saw that courage in him.
 Through his belief in our country and his love for our country, he became an enduring symbol of our country

As he showed what a president should be, he also showed us what a man should be. Ronald Reagan carried himself, even in the most powerful office, with a decency and attention to small kindnesses that also defined a good life. He was a courtly, gentle and considerate man, never known to slight or embarrass others.
Many people across the country cherish letters he wrote in his own hand - to family members on important occasions; to old friends dealing with sickness and loss; to strangers with questions about his days in Hollywood. A boy once wrote to him requesting federal assistance to help clean up his bedroom.
The president replied that: "Unfortunately, funds are dangerously low." He continued: "I'm sure your mother was fully justified in proclaiming your room a disaster. Therefore, you are in an excellent position to launch another volunteer programme in our nation. Congratulations."
Sure, our 40th president wore his title lightly, and it fit like a white stetson. In the end, through his belief in our country and his love for our country, he became an enduring symbol of our country. We think of his steady stride, that tilt of a head and snap of a salute, the big-screen smile, and the glint in his Irish eyes when a story came to mind.
We think of a man advancing in years with the sweetness and sincerity of a scout saying the pledge. We think of that grave expression that sometimes came over his face, the seriousness of a man angered by injustice - and frightened by nothing. We know, as he always said, that America's best days are ahead of us, but with Ronald Reagan's passing, some very fine days are behind us, and that is worth our tears.
Strength and courage
Americans saw death approach Ronald Reagan twice, in a moment of violence, and then in the years of departing light. He met both with courage and grace. In these trials, he showed how a man so enchanted by life can be at peace with life's end.
And where does that strength come from? Where is that courage learned? It is the faith of a boy who read the Bible with his mom. It is the faith of a man lying in an operating room, who prayed for the one who shot him before he prayed for himself. It is the faith of a man with a fearful illness, who waited on the Lord to call him home.
Now, death has done all that death can do. And as Ronald Wilson Reagan goes his way, we are left with the joyful hope he shared. In his last years, he saw through a glass darkly. Now he sees his Saviour face-to-face.
And we look to that fine day when we will see him again, all weariness gone, clear of mind, strong and sure, and smiling again, and the sorrow of his parting gone forever.
May God bless Ronald Reagan, and the country he loved.



Former President George H.W. Bush's Eulogy to Reagan

When Franklin Roosevelt died in 1945, the New York Times wrote, "Men will thank God 100 years from now that Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House."

It will not take 100 years to thank God for Ronald Reagan. But why? Why was he so admired? Why was he so beloved?

He was beloved, first, because of what he was. Politics can be cruel, uncivil. Our friend was strong and gentle.

Once he called America hopeful, big-hearted, idealistic, daring, decent and fair. That was America and, yes, our friend.

And next, Ronald Reagan was beloved because of what he believed. He believed in America so he made it his shining city on a hill. He believed in freedom so he acted on behalf of its values and ideals. He believed in tomorrow so The Great Communicator became The Great Liberator.

He talked of winning one for the Gipper and as president, through his relationship with Mikhail Gorbachev, with us today, the Gipper and, yes, Mikhail Gorbachev won one for peace around the world.

If Ronald Reagan created a better world for many millions it was because of the world someone else created for him.

Nancy was there for him always. Her love for him provided much of his strength, and their love together transformed all of us as we've seen -- renewed seeing again here in the last few days.

And one of the many memories we all have of both of them is the comfort they provided during our national tragedies.

Whether it was the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle or the USS Stark or the Marines killed in Beirut, we will never forget those images of the president and first lady embracing them and embracing us during times of sorrow.

So, Nancy, I want to say this to you: Today, America embraces you. We open up our arms. We seek to comfort you, to tell you of our admiration for your courage and your selfless caring.

And to the Reagan kids -- it's OK for me to say that at 80 -- Michael, Ron, Patti, today all of our sympathy, all of our condolences to you all, and remember, too, your sister Maureen home safe now with her father.

As his vice president for eight years, I learned more from Ronald Reagan than from anyone I encountered in all my years of public life. I learned kindness; we all did. I also learned courage; the nation did.

Who can forget the horrible day in March 1981, he looked at the doctors in the emergency room and said, "I hope you're all Republicans."

And then I learned decency; the whole world did. Days after being shot, weak from wounds, he spilled water from a sink, and entering the hospital room aides saw him on his hands and knees wiping water from the floor. He worried that his nurse would get in trouble.

The good book says humility goes before honor, and our friend had both, and who could not cherish such a man?

And perhaps as important as anything, I learned a lot about humor, a lot about laughter. And, oh, how President Reagan loved a good story.

When asked, "How did your visit go with Bishop Tutu?" he replied, "So-so."

It was typical. It was wonderful.

And in leaving the White House, the very last day, he left in the yard outside the Oval Office door a little sign for the squirrels. He loved to feed those squirrels. And he left this sign that said, "Beware of the dog," and to no avail, because our dog Millie came in and beat the heck out of the squirrels.

But anyway, he also left me a note, at the top of which said, "Don't let the turkeys get you down."

Well, he certainly never let them get him down. And he fought hard for his beliefs. But he led from conviction, but never made an adversary into an enemy. He was never mean-spirited.

Reverend Billy Graham, who I refer to as the nation's pastor, is now hospitalized and regrets that he can't be here today. And I asked him for a Bible passage that might be appropriate. And he suggested this from Psalm 37: "The Lord delights in the way of the man whose steps he has made firm. Though he stumble, he will not fall for the Lord upholds him with his hand."

And then this, too, from 37: "There is a future for the man of peace."

God bless you, Ronald Wilson Reagan and the nation you loved and led so well.



Former Great Britain Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher’s eulogy to Reagan
Thatcher and Reagan were the closest of Cold War allies
This is the full text of Baroness Thatcher's pre-recorded eulogy to President Reagan:
"We have lost a great president, a great American, and a great man. And I have lost a dear friend.
"In his lifetime Ronald Reagan was such a cheerful and invigorating presence that it was easy to forget what daunting historic tasks he set himself. He sought to mend America's wounded spirit, to restore the strength of the free world, and to free the slaves of communism.
"These were causes hard to accomplish and heavy with risk.
"Yet they were pursued with almost a lightness of spirit. For Ronald Reagan also embodied another great cause - what Arnold Bennett once called 'the great cause of cheering us all up'.
"His politics had a freshness and optimism that won converts from every class and every nation - and ultimately from the very heart of the evil empire.
'Grace under pressure'
"Yet his humour often had a purpose beyond humour. In the terrible hours after the attempt on his life, his easy jokes gave reassurance to an anxious world.
 Ronald Reagan's life was providential

"They were evidence that in the aftermath of terror and in the midst of hysteria, one great heart at least remained sane and jocular. They were truly grace under pressure.
"And perhaps they signified grace of a deeper kind. Ronnie himself certainly believed that he had been given back his life for a purpose.
"As he told a priest after his recovery 'Whatever time I've got left now belongs to the Big Fella Upstairs'.
"And surely it is hard to deny that Ronald Reagan's life was providential, when we look at what he achieved in the eight years that followed.
"Others prophesied the decline of the West; he inspired America and its allies with renewed faith in their mission of freedom.
"Others saw only limits to growth; he transformed a stagnant economy into an engine of opportunity.
"Others hoped, at best, for an uneasy cohabitation with the Soviet Union; he won the Cold War - not only without firing a shot, but also by inviting enemies out of their fortress and turning them into friends.
 When his enemies tested American resolve, they soon discovered that his resolve was firm and unyielding

"I cannot imagine how any diplomat, or any dramatist, could improve on his words to Mikhail Gorbachev at the Geneva summit: 'Let me tell you why it is we distrust you.'
Those words are candid and tough and they cannot have been easy to hear. But they are also a clear invitation to a new beginning and a new relationship that would be rooted in trust.
"We live today in the world that Ronald Reagan began to reshape with those words. It is a very different world with different challenges and new dangers.
All in all, however, it is one of greater freedom and prosperity, one more hopeful than the world he inherited on becoming president.
"As prime minister, I worked closely with Ronald Reagan for eight of the most important years of all our lives. We talked regularly both before and after his presidency. And I have had time and cause to reflect on what made him a great president.
"Ronald Reagan knew his own mind. He had firm principles - and, I believe, right ones. He expounded them clearly, he acted upon them decisively.
"When the world threw problems at the White House, he was not baffled, or disorientated, or overwhelmed. He knew almost instinctively what to do.
"When his aides were preparing option papers for his decision, they were able to cut out entire rafts of proposals that they knew 'the Old Man' would never wear.
Baroness Thatcher is paying tribute to an old friend
"When his allies came under Soviet or domestic pressure, they could look confidently to Washington for firm leadership.
"And when his enemies tested American resolve, they soon discovered that his resolve was firm and unyielding.
"Yet his ideas, though clear, were never simplistic. He saw the many sides of truth.
"Yes, he warned that the Soviet Union had an insatiable drive for military power and territorial expansion; but he also sensed it was being eaten away by systemic failures impossible to reform.
"Yes, he did not shrink from denouncing Moscow's 'evil empire'. But he realised that a man of goodwill might nonetheless emerge from within its dark corridors.
"So the President resisted Soviet expansion and pressed down on Soviet weakness at every point until the day came when communism began to collapse beneath the combined weight of these pressures and its own failures.
"And when a man of goodwill did emerge from the ruins, President Reagan stepped forward to shake his hand and to offer sincere cooperation.
"Nothing was more typical of Ronald Reagan than that large-hearted magnanimity - and nothing was more American.
"Therein lies perhaps the final explanation of his achievements.
"Ronald Reagan carried the American people with him in his great endeavours because there was perfect sympathy between them. He and they loved America and what it stands for - freedom and opportunity for ordinary people.
"As an actor in Hollywood's golden age, he helped to make the American dream live for millions all over the globe. His own life was a fulfilment of that dream.
"He never succumbed to the embarrassment some people feel about an honest expression of love of country.
"He was able to say 'God Bless America' with equal fervour in public and in private. And so he was able to call confidently upon his fellow-countrymen to make sacrifices for America - and to make sacrifices for those who looked to America for hope and rescue.
"With the lever of American patriotism, he lifted up the world.
"And so today the world - in Prague, in Budapest, in Warsaw, in Sofia, in Bucharest, in Kiev and in Moscow itself - the world mourns the passing of the Great Liberator and echoes his prayer 'God Bless America'.
"Ronald Reagan's life was rich not only in public achievement, but also in private happiness.
"Indeed, his public achievements were rooted in his private happiness. The great turning point of his life was his meeting and marriage with Nancy.
"On that we have the plain testimony of a loving and grateful husband: 'Nancy came along and saved my soul.' We share her grief today. But we also share her pride - and the grief and pride of Ronnie's children.
"For the final years of his life, Ronnie's mind was clouded by illness. That cloud has now lifted.
"He is himself again - more himself than at any time on this earth. For we may be sure that the Big Fella Upstairs never forgets those who remember Him.
"And as the last journey of this faithful pilgrim took him beyond the sunset, and as heaven's morning broke, I like to think - in the words of Bunyan - that 'all the trumpets sounded on the other side'.
"We here still move in twilight. But we have one beacon to guide us that Ronald Reagan never had.
"We have his example. Let us give thanks today for a life that achieved so much for all of God's children."



Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney eulogy to President Ronald Reagan:
In the spring of 1987, President Reagan and I were driven into a large hangar at the Ottawa airport to await the arrival of Mrs Reagan and my wife Mila prior to departure ceremonies for their return to Washington.
We were alone except for the security details.
President Reagan's visit had been important, demanding and successful.
Our discussions reflected the international agenda of the times: the nuclear threat posed by the Soviet Union and the missile deployment by Nato, pressures in the Warsaw Pact, challenges resulting from the Berlin Wall and the ongoing separation of Germany, and bilateral and hemispheric free trade.
President Reagan had spoken to Parliament, handled complex files with skill and good humour, strongly impressing his Canadian hosts.
And here we were waiting for our wives.
When their car drove in a moment later, out stepped Nancy and Mila looking like a million bucks.
And as they headed towards us, President Reagan beamed. He threw his arm around my shoulder. And he said with a grin: "You know, Brian, for two Irishmen, we sure married up."
In that visit, in that moment, one saw the quintessential Ronald Reagan: the leader we respected, the neighbour we admired, and the friend we loved, a president of the United States of America whose truly remarkable life we celebrate in this magnificent cathedral today.
Presidents and prime ministers everywhere, I suspect, sometimes wonder how history will deal with them.
 Ronald Reagan was a president who inspired his nation and transformed the world

Some even evince a touch of the insecurity of Thomas Darcy McGee, an Irish immigrant to Canada who became a father of our confederation.
In one of his poems, McGee, thinking of his birthplace, wrote poignantly: "Am I remembered in Erin? I charge you speak me true. Has my name a sound, a meaning in the scenes my boyhood knew?"
Ronald Reagan will not have to worry about Erin because they remember him well and affectionately there. Indeed they do.
From Erin to Estonia, from Maryland to Madagascar, from Montreal to Monterey, Ronald Reagan does not enter history tentatively. He does so with certainty and panache.
At home and on the world stage, his were not the pallid etchings of a timorous politician. They were the bold strokes of a confident and accomplished leader.
Some in the West, during the early 1980s, believed communism and democracy were equally valid and viable. This was the school of moral equivalence.
In contrast, Ronald Reagan saw Soviet communism as a menace to be confronted in the genuine belief that its squalid underpinnings would fall swiftly to the gathering winds of freedom provided, as he said, that Nato and the industrialised democracies stood firm and united.
They did. And we know now who was right.
'Sense of state'
Ronald Reagan was a president who inspired his nation and transformed the world.
He possessed a rare and prized gift called leadership, that ineffable and magical quality that sets some men and women apart so that millions will follow them as they conjure up grand visions and invite their countrymen to dream big and exciting dreams.
 I have been truly blessed to have been a friend of Ronald Reagan

I always thought that President Reagan's understanding of the nobility of the presidency coincided with that American dream.
One day, in Brussels, President Mitterrand, in referring to President Reagan, said: "Il a vraiment la notion de l'etat." Rough translation: "He really has a sense of the state about him."
The translation does not fully capture the profundity of the observation.
What President Mitterrand meant is that there is a vast difference between the job of president and the role of president.
Ronald Reagan fulfilled both with elegance and ease, embodying himself that unusual alchemy of history and tradition and achievement and inspirational conduct and national pride that defined the special role the president of the United States of America must assume at all times at home and around the world.
La notion de l'etat - no-one understood it better than Ronald Reagan.
And no one could more eloquently summon his nation to high purpose or bring forth the majesty of the presidency and make it glow better than the man who referred to his own nation as a city on the hill.
Admiration and affection
May our common future and that of our great nations be guided by wise men and women who will remember always the golden achievements of the Reagan era and the success that can be theirs if the values of freedom and democracy are preserved, unsullied and undiminished until the unfolding decades can remember little else.
I have been truly blessed to have been a friend of Ronald Reagan.
I am grateful that our paths crossed and that our lives touched. I shall always remember him with the deepest admiration and affection.
And I will always feel honoured by the journey that we travelled together in search of better and more peaceful tomorrows for all God's children everywhere.
And so in the presence of his beloved and indispensable Nancy, his children, his family, his friends and all of the American people that he so deeply revered, I say au revoir today to a gifted leader and historic president and a gracious human being.
And I do so with a line from Yeats, who wrote: "Think where man's glory most begins and ends and say my glory was that I had such friends."




Remarks by Ronald Reagan's children

Remarks by Ronald Reagan's children at the Sunset service at the Reagan Library, June 11, 2004 



MICHAEL REAGAN: Good evening. I'm Mike Reagan. You knew my father as governor, as president. But I knew him as dad. I want to tell you a little bit about my dad. A little bit about Cameron and Ashley's grandfather because not a whole lot is ever spoken about that side of Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan adopted me into his family 1945. I was a chosen one. I was the lucky one. And all of his years, he never mentioned that I was adopted either behind my back or in front of me. I was his son, Michael Edward Reagan.
When his families grew to be two families, he didn't walk away from the one to go to the other. But he became a father to both. To Patti and then Ronnie, but always to Maureen, my sister, and myself. We looked forward to those Saturday mornings when he would pick us up, sitting on the curve on Beverly Glenn, as his car would turn the corner from Sunset Boulevard and we would get in and ride to his ranch and play games and he would always make sure it ended up a tie.
We would swim and we would ride horses or we'd just watch him cut firewood. We would be in awe of our father. As years went by and I became older and found a woman I would marry, Colleen, he sent me a letter about marriage and how important it was to be faithful to the woman you love with a P.S. -- you'll never get in trouble if you say I love you at least once a day, and I'm sure he told Nancy every day I love you as I tell Colleen.
He also sent letters to his grandchildren. He wasn't able to be the grandfather that many of you are able to be because of the job that he had. And so he would write letters. He sent one letter to Cameron, said, Cameron, some guy got $10,000 for my signature. Maybe this letter will help you pay for your college education. He signed it, Grandpa. P.S., your grandpa's is the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan. He just signed his sign. Those are the kinds of things my father did.
At the early onset of Alzheimer's Disease my father and I would tell each other we loved each other and we would give each other a hug. As the years went by and he could no longer verbalize my name, he recognized me as the man who hugged him. So when I would walk into the house, he would be there in his chair opening up his arms for that hug, hello, and the hug good-bye. It was a blessing truly brought on by God.
We had wonderful blessings of that nature. Wonderful, wonderful blessings that my father gave to me each and every day of my life. I was so proud to have the Reagan name and to be Ronald Reagan's son. What a great honor. He gave me a lot of gifts as a child. Gave me a horse. Gave me a car. Gave me a lot of things. But there's a gift he gave me that I think is wonderful for every father to give every son. Last Saturday, when my father opened his eyes for the last time, and visualized Nancy and gave her such a wonderful, wonderful gift.
When he closed his eyes, that's when I realized the gift that he gave to me, the gift that he was going to be with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He had, back in 1988 on a flight from Washington, D.C. to Point Mugu, told me about his love of God, his love of Christ as his Savior. I didn't know then what it all meant. But I certainly, certainly know now. I can't think of a better gift for a father to give a son. And I hope to honor my father by giving my son Cameron and my daughter Ashley that very same gift he gave to me. Knowing where he is this very moment, this very day, that he is in Heaven, and I can only promise my father this. Dad, when I go, I will go to Heaven, too. And you and I and my sister Maureen that went before us, we will dance with the heavenly host of angels before the presence of God. We will do it melanoma and Alzheimer's free. Thank you for letting me share my father, Ronald Wilson Reagan.



PATTI DAVIS: Many years ago, my father decided to write down his reflections about death, specifically his own, and how he would want people to feel about it. He chose to write down the first verse of an Alfred Lord Tennyson poem Crossing The Bar and then he decided to add a couple lines of his own. I don't think Tennyson will mind. In fact, they've probably already discussed it by now.
Tennyson wrote, sunset and evening star and one clear call for me. And may thereby no moaning of the bar when I put out to sea. My father added, we have God's promise that I have gone on to a better world where there is no pain or sorrow. Bring comfort to those who may mourn my going.
My father never feared death, he never saw it as an ending. When I was a child, he took me out into a field at our ranch after one of the Malibu fires had swept through. I was very small on the field, looked huge and lifeless, but he bent down and showed me how tiny new green shoots were peeking up out of the ashes just weeks after the fire had come through. You see, he said, new life always comes out of death. It looks like nothing could ever grow in this field again, but things do.
He was the one who generously offered funeral services for my goldfish on the morning of its demise. We went out into the garden and we dug a tiny grave with a teaspoon and he took two twigs and lashed them together with twine and formed a cross as a marker for the grave. And then he gave a beautiful eulogy. He told me that my fish was swimming in the clear blue waters in heaven and he would never tire and he would never get hungry and he would never be in any danger and he could swim as far and wide as he wanted and he never had to stop, because the river went on forever. He was free.
When we went back inside and I looked at my remaining goldfish in their aquarium with their pink plastic castle and their colored rocks, I suggested that perhaps we should kill the others so they could also go to that clear blue river and be free. He then took more time out of his morning, I'm sure he actually did have other things to do that day, and patiently explained to me that in God's time, the other fish would go there, as well. In God's time, we would all be taken home. And even though it sometimes seemed a mystery, we were just asked to trust that God's time was right and wise.
I don't know why Alzheimer's was allowed to steal so much of my father -- sorry -- Before releasing him into the arms of death, but I know that at his last moment, when he opened his eyes, eyes that had not opened for many, many days and looked at my mother, he showed us that neither disease nor death can conquer love.
He may have in his lifetime come across a small book called Peace of Mind by Joshua Loth Lieberman. If he did, I think he would have been struck by these lines, then for each one of us, the moment comes when the great nurse, death, takes man, the child, by the hand and quietly says, it's time to go home, night is coming. It is your bedtime child of Earth.



 RON REAGAN JR.: He is home now. He is free. In his final letter to the American people, dad wrote, I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. This evening, he has arrived.
History will record his worth as a leader. We here have long since measured his worth as a man. Honest, compassionate, graceful, brave. He was the most plainly decent man you could ever hope to meet.
He used to say, a gentleman always does the kind thing. And he was a gentleman in the truest sense of the word. A gentle man.
Big as he was, he never tried to make anyone feel small. Powerful as he became, he never took advantage of those who were weaker. Strength, he believed, was never more admirable than when it was applied with restraint. Shopkeeper, doorman, king or queen, it made no difference, dad treated everyone with the same unfailing courtesy. Acknowledging the innate dignity in us all.
The idea that all people are created equal was more than mere words on a page, it was how he lived his life. And he lived a good, long life. The kind of life good men lead. But I guess I'm just telling you things you already know.
Here's something you may not know, a little Ronald Reagan trivia for you, his entire life, dad had an inordinate fondness for ear lobes. Even as a boy, back in Dixon, Illinois hanging out on a street corner with his friends, they knew that if they were standing next to Dutch, sooner or later, he was going to reach over and grab ahold of their lobe, give it a workout there. Sitting on his lap watching TV as a kid, same story, he would have a hold of my ear lobe. I'm surprised I have any lobes left after all of that.
And you didn't have to be a kid to enjoy that sort of treatment. Serving in the Screen Actors Guild with his great friend William Holden, the actor, best man at his wedding, Bill got used to it. They would be there at the meetings, and Dad would have ahold of his ear lobe. There they'd be, some tense labor negotiation, two big Hollywood movie stars, hand in ear lobe.
He was, as you know, a famously optimistic man. Sometimes such optimism leads you to see the world as you wish it were as opposed to how it really is. At a certain point in his presidency, dad decided he was going to revive the thumbs up gesture. So he went all over the country, of course, giving everybody the thumbs up.
(UNINTELLIGIBLE) and I found ourselves in the presidential limousine one day returning from some big event. My mother was there and dad was of course, thumbs upping the crowd along the way, and suddenly, looming in the window on his side of the car was this snarling face. This fellow was reviving an entirely different hand gesture. And hoisted an entirely different digit in our direction. Dad saw this and without missing a beat turned to us and said, you see? I think it's catching on.
Dad was also a deeply, unabashedly religious man. But he never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage. True, after he was shot and nearly killed early in his presidency, he came to believe that God had spared him in order that he might do good. But he accepted that as a responsibility, not a mandate. And there is a profound difference.
Humble as he was, he never would have assumed a free pass to heaven. But in his heart of hearts, I suspect he felt he would be welcome there. And so he is home. He is free.
Those of us who knew him well will have no trouble imagining his paradise. Golden fields will spread beneath a blue dome of a western sky. Live oaks will shadow the rolling hillsides. And someplace, flowing from years long past, a river will wind towards the sea. Across those fields, he will ride a gray mare he calls Nancy D. They will sail over jumps he has built with his own hands. He will at the river carry him over the shining stones. He will rest in the shade of the trees.
Our cares are no longer his. We meet him now only in memory. But we will join him soon enough. All of us. When we are home, when we are free.


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