Friday, April 6, 2012

Presidents & Parents

When Ronald Reagan died, I purposefully avoided information about the services and eulogies. I ducked coverage of his body lying in state. I dodged heated diatribes about the man who held the highest office in our nation during some of my most formative years. It was at a time when I was unwilling to give death its due, even by displacing it with focus on the life it took.

Near my desk, there's a picture of Dad with Reagan. It was taken before I was born. Now they are both dead.

My dad died the same week as Richard Nixon, whose presidency I have less memories of (though I've read All The President's Men, seen the movie, and tend to distill Nixon to his culpability in Watergate). And, mired in my own mourning, whatever events or coverage swirled around Nixon's passing, I was generally unaware.

A salient image remains from coverage of Reagan's funeral: news footage of Nancy Reagan (looking shockingly similar to my mother in her final years) touching the casket of her dead husband, who was taken from her years before his death by the decimating cruelty of Alzheimer's disease. 

It conjured the memory of Mom approaching Dad's casket at the conclusion of his funeral. The attendees had already filed out, and the pallbearers had yet to bear my father to the hearse that would drive him to his final resting place.  Certain images cannot be discarded, even if they are no longer wanted.

This recollection reminds me of my parents, of their funerals -- but, more importantly, their lives.

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