Transcript: Reagan's Children Deliver Remarks at Service
Friday, June 11, 2004; 11:55 PM
Text of remarks made by Ronald Reagan's children at a private service in Simi Valley, Calif.
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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