The outpouring of love and respect for my dad the American people showed last week was astonishing. It was what really kept us going all week long.
Just to see the huge numbers of people who came out to join us in mourning dad, whether it was at the funeral home in Santa Monica where they broke out singing “God Bless America”, or at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley where over 100,000 people came to pay their respects, or in Washington while dad lay in state at the Capitol and another 100,000 passed silently by his flag-draped coffin, it all left us breathless and filled with gratitude.
Seeing the firemen who had their fire trucks out, standing at attention and saluting as the hearse passed by on the way to the library and standing on the overpasses as the funeral procession passed by below, tugged at our heart strings.
After all, dad had not been in the public eye for ten years but during that time which Nancy called “the long goodbye,” it now appears that the love for him continued to grow as people came to understand the respect he showed for the office of president, and the respect he showed for each and every one of us and the optimistic vision he had for America’s future – that we could always do better. His message was always hopeful and it inspired us and continues to inspire us.
I will always remember a little boy about the same age as young John Kennedy Jr. was when he saluted his father’s coffin. He was standing on the median on the freeway with his dad, and saluting as the hearse passed by. Here was a boy maybe three of four years old who wasn’t born when my dad was president, yet because of his parents’ example he wanted to show his love for a man he never knew. All I can do is to say thank you, young American, with all my heart, thank you.
I can only say thank you to the 100,000 people who waited in line for hours to have a chance to walk by dad’s coffin at the Library. Thank you to the 100,000 people who stood in line in blazing heat for hours on end for a chance to spend a minute or two paying their respects to dad as he lay in state in the Capitol rotunda.
Thank you to the members of the military for the magnificent job you did during the different ceremonies where your precision drills were perfect in every respect. These things don’t just happen and I realize how much effort you put into your performances of duty.
Thank you to President Bush, and Lady Thatcher and former President Bush, and Brian Mulroney for your touching eulogies at the funeral in Washington. Thank you Rev. Danforth for your kind words and for the beauty you helped bring to the ceremony.
All of you made it so much easier for us to get through those emotion-filled days we spent in the public eye and under the glare of the TV lights. You helped turn what could have been a grief-filled experience into a week-long awe-inspiring series of moments.
You made it clear that there was a massive support system out there – a support system that was praying for my dad and for us. It sustained us.
We had to go through this very publicly – there were no moments when we could mourn in private. It was your love that turned what could have been a mere public spectacle into a mass outpouring of affection and love for my dad, and us, his family.
Thank you, John Kerry, for coming out here to California to pay your respects to a man with whom you disagreed so many times, yet respected enough to pay your final tribute.
Thank you, America. My dad loved you, and so do we. You are the finest, most decent and loving people in the world. And you proved that last week.
And thank you, Nancy Reagan, for taking such loving care of my dad and your beloved husband during the painful and extended ordeal of “the long goodbye.” Your selflessness and dedication were above and beyond the call of duty and for that we owe you a debt of gratitude.
©2004 Mike Reagan. You must contact us if you would like to print this column in your publication or post on the internet. Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc. Cari Dawson Bartley Cari@cagle.com, (800) 696-7561