On Saturday afternoon, after what Nancy called “the long goodbye,” my father went home.
My first reaction was to recall Edwin Stanton’s words when Abraham Lincoln breathed his last: “Now he belongs to the ages.”
That can only be said about giants, and my father was a giant – he towered above his contemporaries and the great majority of the world’s most famous political figures past and present.
Nowadays much is said about the legacies American presidents leave behind, and only a tiny handful of presidents of the United States left behind them legacies as abundant as that which my dad left behind.
When he came into office the nation was nearly an economic basket case. The morale of the American people was at rock bottom – we had lost that confidence in ourselves that had created the American colossus, and our leaders had surrendered to the idea that the Cold War would be a permanent fixture on the world scene.
When he left office after eight years, the economy was booming, we had recaptured the can-do spirit that had motivated Americans for generations, and the Soviet Union was approaching collapse and with it the Cold War.
His legacy included far more than his accomplishments in statecraft. His optimism was contagious, he showed us the shining city on the hill, and taught us that we could reach it.
Throughout it all he never lost his sense of humility, his innate decency, his love of country, and his love of the American people. He was a gentleman to the tips of his fingers in an age of incivility.
In all my life with him I never saw him do anything to hurt another person. He would have rather cut off his hands than offend a fellow human being.
Above all, my father lived as close to his maker as it is possible for a mortal to be. Every morning he put himself in God’s hands, accepting whatever happened as the will of the Lord with absolute confidence that he would receive whatever he needed to cope with whatever the Lord put in front of him.
Today as I joined my family at the first of the memorial services, I felt grief at his passing. But, as I stood over the casket this morning I was comforted in knowing that with all of the gifts that my father had given to the nation that the greatest gift he had given to me was knowing that at one o’clock Saturday afternoon when my father closed his eyes for the last time he went to be with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. A finer gift cannot be given to a son.
Thank you Dad, I love you.
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