SAN JOSE, March 12, 2016 – Former first lady Nancy Reagan was laid to rest this past Friday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Nancy Reagan was buried next to the grave of her husband, who died on June 5, 2004.
It seems as though as she passes away, so passes the last flickering light of the Reagan era. This is indeed sad, as the world, though equally dangerous in a different way than now, was seemingly filled with more hope in the Reagan years than in this time. In the days when the Reagan’s were in the White House there was a more upbeat outlook upon the state of the nation, and the state of the world. America seemed to hold so much more promise in those days.
Admittedly, the positive perception of those days had much to do with the spirit of President Ronald Reagan. And admittedly, much of her husband’s good spirit had to do with his good wife and true friend, Nancy. Although many articles have been written about her recently, especially since her passing away last Sunday, and though there was much media coverage regarding her funeral, there seems to be a common denominator in the various stories: the love that existed between her and Ronald Reagan was legendary. The love experienced between the two forged them into a complete couple, into “two halves of a circle,” as Patti Davis, their daughter, once observed.
Formerly rebellious daughter, Patti Davis, shared an aged memory of seeing her parents sitting on a beach in southern California at sunset, and publically comprehended it as an impenetrable “island for two.” Patti Davis, in an interview on the Today show that aired the day before her mother’s funeral, expressed some raw sentiment mixed with a bit of laughter as she candidly shared that even while her brother Ron and her were children, they grasped an awareness of their parents’ legendary bond, “The feeling was sort of like if a band of gypsies came and took me and Ron away; they would miss us, but they’d be fine… You know, they would go on.”
Patti Davis explained further to Maria Shriver of NBC her impression of her parent’s incredible bond, “Which didn’t mean they didn’t love us. But it meant that they were complete. Their lives wouldn’t be destroyed if we weren’t there. They were complete unto each other.”
And though the reconciled daughter eventually came to understand and admire her parents’ powerful love for each other, while growing up she often felt as if she were “invisible.”
Sadly, the “oneness” of such a complete couple is not a guarantee of an emotionally healthy and vibrant family, which occurred in the Reagan family. Any stress associated with such a high powered couple, is capable of strengthening the family bonds, or capable of creating collateral damage.
Both the former president and Nancy did not have ideal family lives as they grew up, and scars left upon the hearts of the parents are often passed on to the children. Ronald Reagan’s father suffered from alcoholism, and Nancy Davis (formerly Anne Frances Robbins) was abandoned for a time by her mother, Edith Luckett, after her parents split up. Anne Robbins lived with her aunt and uncle until her mother remarried in 1929, when Anne became part of the newly formed family. However, it was not until 1935 that Anne was formally adopted by Loyal Davis. Then, her name officially became Nancy Davis.
Sadly, neither Mr. and Mrs. Reagan, as far as their greatness extended, had exemplary parental role models as they grew up.
The real irony as Michael Reagan, the adopted son in Ronald Reagan’s first marriage to Jane Wyman, pointed out in The City on a Hill, was that his father’s belief in the ideal of the family had always been a deeply held conviction. Yet, his political opponents chose to cast him as a hypocrite due to his previous divorce and difficulties with his own children. Michael pierced the heart of the issue regarding his dad as he explained in that book, “…he absorbed and repeated the parenting style of his emotionally unavailable father – the only male parenting model my father ever knew… Since that was the only example of fathering Ronald Reagan ever knew, that example shaped the kind of father Ronald Reagan became.”
In a like manner, it is similar to what Patti Davis and younger brother, Ronald Prescott Reagan, had to deal with in regard to both their parents. Patti Davis reacted in a more extreme way; she changed her last name to be independent of the Reagan “brand,” and acted out in a number of rebellious ways, which embarrassed and hurt her parents. Yet, Davis explained in her Today interview that she now regrets some of the bitter things she wrote in her 1992 memoir, The Way I See It, “I get now why I behaved the way I did and why I acted out in the way I did and wrote things that I wish I could remove from the face of the earth, but I can’t.”
Patti’s change of heart toward Nancy apparently began as Davis learned of her dad’s battle with Alzheimer’s. Davis explained on Today about her change in later years, “At some point, and really it was at the beginning of my father’s illness, I made a choice. I chose to aim for peace of mind and peace in and of itself with my mother. And past recriminations, anger, blame, all of our sort of strained history together, there’s no peace of mind in that at all, and I really made a decision to look at her and look at us through a different lens — through a more loving, forgiving lens.”
On Nancy’s 90th birthday, Patti Davis wrote a short article in More magazine titled, “What I Learned from my Mother, Nancy Reagan.” It is clear that Patti had become more introspective and kinder. In the piece she wrote, “She’s softer now… I admire her commitment to be as active as possible, and as independent as she can be. I think it must take great courage to accept that you simply have to move more slowly… and there are some things you can no longer do. There is great grace in bending to life’s wheel, in not railing against the accumulation of years. I’ve learned as a daughter watching her mother age that it’s the best way to live.”
And despite Davis’ rocky relationship with her mom, Patti delivered one of the eulogies at the funeral.
Ronald Prescott Reagan, whose relationship with his mother also improved as he grew older, also delivered one of the eulogies, and revealed something that many already knew about Nancy Reagan, “My father was inclined to believe that everyone was basically good; my mother didn’t share that inclination, and she didn’t have that luxury. In my mother’s world, you were either helpful to her husband, or you were not.”
Ron explained that his mother “was not always the easiest person to deal with” and admitted that she could be demanding and often difficult. He believed this side of his mother showed up only to save the public servant from being the one to do it.
This was confirmed by James A. Baker, Ronald Reagan’s former chief of staff, who also delivered a eulogy, and shared that Nancy Reagan was her husband’s “closest advisor and fiercest protector.” Baker explained that she was romantic, but also could be “as tough as a Marine drill sergeant.”
Craig Shirley, in his book Rendezvous with Destiny had written much about Nancy Reagan’s direct involvement at times in the political affairs of her husband. One such famous incident revealed in his book was that she played a part in the firing of Reagan’s campaign manager, John Sears, in 1980 on the day of the New Hampshire primary. Additionally, it has been reported that she was involved with the 1987 dismissal of Reagan’s Chief of Staff, Donald Regan. She had been given credit for “terrific political instincts.”
Nevertheless, when one considers all the difficulties that the Reagan family had to endure, the most serious one would probably be the time of the assassination attempt in 1981 when then President Ronald Reagan was shot. While it brought the family together, it was still a time when Nancy Reagan doubled down with her husband on the impenetrable “island for two.” According to Nancy Reagan’s press secretary, Sheila Tate, Mrs. Reagan never left the hospital where the president was being cared for until her husband was released.
After President Reagan and Nancy left Washington, D.C. behind, she needed to become his chief protector once again as he began suffering through his struggles with Alzheimer’s. And amazingly, not even Ronald Reagan’s death would break their impenetrable bond. According to Patti Davis in the interview, Nancy Reagan confided in her daughter that Ronnie would appear to her in the wee morning hours, and would sit and visit with her. Apparently, it eased her incredible loneliness, and made her feel him still near. Eventually, the visits stopped. Davis shared with Shriver that her mother once revealed that “…she was not afraid to die. She said, ‘I don’t want it to hurt, but I’m not afraid to die, you know, I’ll see Ronnie again,'”
Nancy Reagan’s official White House biography quotes her as stating, “My life really began when I married my husband.” Nancy, who had actually planned many of the details of her own funeral, indicated that she valued her role of wife more importantly that any other role as the first Bible passage she had requested was read from the book of Proverbs, “When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls. Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize.”
At 63, Patti Davis seems to finally appreciate the impenetrable “island for two” as she told Shriver, “Where I came to in my life and with her was to be really happy for her that she had this great love in her life.”
Nancy Reagan should show up in history as a true half of the Reagan whole.
In this age of the Progressives and Leftists attempting to brainwash young ladies into believing their value depends upon their right to vote, Nancy Reagan will be remembered as more reflective of an Abigail Adams than an Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Nancy Reagan was a good woman and good wife, and ultimately the best true friend and confidant of her husband. As Ron Reagan said in his eulogy for his mother, “you couldn’t ask for a more loyal or dedicated friend.”
Thus, Nancy Reagan will remain so in history.