The Tar Pit

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Reflections on the Repose of President Ronald Reagan

Originally posted June 7th, 2004

I just got back from the Reagan Library a couple of hours ago, after paying final respects to President Reagan. The scene is crowded, but orderly. I went with my daughter, and our wait in line was a couple of hours for the shuttle from Moorpark Junior College. The line looked to be twice as long when we got back, snaking down the back lawn of the campus

Quite a few folks brought kids, which I think is a great thing. Not only was President Reagan immensely fond of children, his memorial will forever be a touchstone in their lives. It's important, I think, to convey to children early on that they are a part of History.

For this reason more than anything, I wanted to attend for my daughter’s sake. She's sixteen, and once when she was eight she got to spend about 15 minutes one-on-one with President Reagan at his office in Century City. He was the kindest, most genial man imaginable. So, I wanted her to have the chance to say good-bye, and thank you.

As our shuttle bus turned past the sign at the entrance to the Reagan Library, we saw the mounds of flowers and many American Flags planted there by the President’s mourners. On the street lamp on the opposite corner was a banner with a portrait of George Washington. More portraits gazed at us through time as we made our way up the winding hill -- Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe – every President that ever served this great nation. Simple streetlamp banners serving notice that we were making our way through History up to that little “City on the Hill” that is the Reagan Library.

At the top of the hill there is a rocky peak above and adjacent to the library, where we saw a white easy-up tent and Secret Service men stationed as sentries. My daughter and I got off our bus and filed into the main courtyard, where a mighty bronze eagle holds a bronzed Old Glory in his talons. The eagle is perched on a pedestal made of red granite, white marble, and what I took to be blue lapis lazuli, arranged in stars and stripes. The top rim of the pedestal is inlaid with brass plaques reproducing the signatures of the men who signed the U.S. Constitution. History made tangible.

As we entered the Library’s Main Lobby where the President was lying in repose, across the hall from us one white-haired old soldier paused as he was leaving. He saluted one last time to his fallen Commander in Chief and brother-in-arms against the great tyrannies of the Twentieth Century.

There was a solemn majesty to seeing the President's flag-draped casket, watched over by a motionless Color Guard. My daughter teared up, and I found myself touched by the simple, yet mythic nature of the moment, much like that of the man himself. For before me lay a warrior at peace, a hero who had changed the world for all of us, called home and called to merciful rest by his Creator. The world has changed once again with his passing.