Thank You Nancy
By Rev. Paul V. Scholl
For those of you who were able to watch the memorial services for former United States President Ronald Reagan, perhaps you saw as I did, the dramatic conclusion of a long and arduous struggle of a dedicated care giver. With all political beliefs aside, there was no denying the love Ronald and Nancy Reagan shared throughout their marriage, culminating in the loyal task of comforter, solace, care giver, “until death do us part.”
Over my years serving as hospice spiritual support to families and patients, the lessons about human nature have been great, but one of the greatest has been to watch what commitment between husband and wife means when facing end-of-life issues. Watching the heart-rending struggles, the long, slow separation from someone held so dear and for so long, gave me a new gratitude for what our former first lady provided for her husband. In the end, he was her husband, lover, confidant first, and our president second.
Watching the entire ceremony from both coasts, how the country honored President Reagan in the rotunda all night long, through to the appropriate and in-appropriate responses of their children, what was unfolding for our nation was just one of many scenarios of a family facing the loss of a father after a long illness. From a hospice viewpoint, it was serving as an open education to our nation and others what a great loss and change it can be to lose a father, a husband, an honoured friend. It showed the impact of love and compassion through care giving of one individual above all the rest. It showed how the most meaningful reward to that care giver, no matter how important or respected by others they may have been, was the final resting and relief for the one they loved and cared for through their final days.
For many, this chapter served as a reward in itself to thousands of care giving spouses around the world, displaying the fact that they are not alone in their pain, grief or loss. It offered a myriad of responses from those who could provide support, spiritual or otherwise, once the challenge of death was overcome. It provided a close-up view of the peace and acceptance that comes after death.
The overwhelming response of the people who loved a man, wanted to pay last respects to him for all he did for them, their children and their country was truly awe-inspiring, along with the reverence of the changing of the honor guard, as if it were all part of the passing into another life through an end-of-life review where you see everyone and everything you’ve had some influence upon during your lifetime. Ronald Reagan’s life review was there for us all to see.
The historical aspects are undeniable. There will be an impact on those who cared and watched, and it will last a generation, as the importance of honouring your commitments, expressing and providing love to someone when they most need it, paying one’s respects to those who helped pave our way in life, and openly offering gratitude appropriately will be handed down to children as they see this past week’s ceremony again on some late night History Channel video.
Whatever the lesson may be that you saved for yourself as you watched our nation grieve the loss of a true leader, keep it close and relearn from it every day. The time will come when you will need the example of care giving Nancy Reagan provided us all, and in that moment you must dare to use it for the one you love.
~ Rev. Paul V. Scholl