Skip to comments.I lost my father, America lost a hero
Posted on 06/12/2004 5:08:29 PM PDT by MadIvan
Patti Davis famously fell out with her father Ronald Reagan, but was reconciled with him before his death. She was at his side when he died a week ago. Here she describes his final days, and the gap his departure has left in the life of her family
My father is dying. Only a few days left now. Maybe a week. Maybe his soul is already gone. It looks like that blue chalk eyes, more like a childs drawing then real eyes. No life in them, just existence.
Its been 10 years since the diagnosis. Alzheimers. A disease that arrives with death as its soulmate. I thought I was prepared. So many waves of grief have crashed over me during these years. But now I think there is another diving-down place thats still waiting for me.
Two days ago my fathers eyes stopped opening at all; his hand is as pale as the blanket covering him and sometimes his breath just stops as seconds pass by and I wonder and hold my own breath. My father is dying and it feels like Ive never thought about it before. Even though Ive been living with the thought for a decade.
My fathers voice fell silent weeks ago. Until then the sound of his voice hummed through the room sometimes not with words, but maybe they were words to him. I said to my mother, maybe hes getting us used to the silence.
She lives with all that silence, with the ticking by of minutes and the knowledge that death has to be better than ragged breathing and chalk-blue eyes.
Her husband is dying. The man she loved for 52 years. Here is a snapshot of the waiting: a daughter holding her mother while she weeps, tears staining skin, a body shaking with so much pain you think if you were at the centre of the Earth you could probably feel it.
My mother is tiny, her weight against me light, the back of her head is cupped in my hand. But her grief is huge and so heavy it pulls on the joints of my body. It will be okay, I tell her. But I have no idea if it will be.
His death will be a big unwieldy one a world event. Press stories and news specials and foreign dignitaries arriving in America in black clothes with typed-up eulogies in their pockets. We will grab onto the massive grief around us and go home at night to the shape of grief inside us.
My father has died. Five of us were there my mother, (brother) Ron, me, the doctor and the Irish nurse whose lilting voice always made him smile. We waited through the foggy morning, into the midday sunlight. An intimate vigil, a bond formed that no one will forget. The room was filled with whispers, shared stories, soft laughter over fond memories. Silence, as we measured my fathers breathing.
At the last moment, when his breathing told us this was it, he opened his eyes and looked straight at my mother. Eyes that hadnt opened for days did, and they werent chalky or vague. They were clear and blue and full of love, and then they closed with his last breath.
If a death can be lovely, his was. The greatest gift you could have given me, my mother managed to say to him through tears, through I love you, through the towering beauty of that last moment. The hush in the room broken then by quiet crying.
The world turns pages of my fathers life and wrestles with his death. There seems to be no other news story. A world event as we knew it would be. It used to be hard to share my father with a whole nation. Now youd have to be the most selfish person in the world not to take comfort from the support of so many.
Yet for me his death is simply this: one last moment of startling life, a memory seared into our hearts, the one antidote to the sorrow that will stream on with no end in sight. Death is eyes closing for the last time and other eyes opening morning after morning wondering if this will be the day when it gets easier.
My father told me when I was small that I didnt need to stand on my toes to touch God, because He is everywhere. He was right: God was in that room.
In his last moment my father taught me that there is nothing stronger than love between two people. It reaches past death and cradles hearts that weep. The last thing he did in this world was to show my mother how entwined their souls are . . . and it was everything.
Beautiful...she's become the woman he hoped she be.
The cold slap of reality affects us all differently.
God bless her.
Patti has come to realize how right/good/heroic her father really was.
Yes, very moving and loving of her to share.
God bless your Britain, MadIvan, and you.
I thought all three of the children were amazingly eloquent and the class of their father and mother came through. I think I may now understand how they felt shortchanged by their parents public life. He was such an amazing man that having to share him would make doing so all the more difficult. Sharing a lesser man would probably be much easier. Now it seems they have come to realize they were incredibly blessed.
Self destructive and a total waste of talent. How sad. By spiting her parents she spited herself.
**Beautiful...she's become the woman he hoped she be.**
I don't think so.
Thanks Ivan. It's beautiful. And it's so nice to see you posting again.
I couldn't agree with you more.
Very powerful description of her father's last days. Thanks.
I'm glad I wasn't one of the little soldiers in the war going on inside her head. She looked very troubled all week. A lot of pain.
And it's so nice to see you posting again.
Indeed it is.
Margaret Thatcher and you.
My two favorite Brits.
She is a lovely writer and she does justice to the emotions and to the moment. I hope her father's faith has moved her spirit as well as her heart.
Of course you are correct. But I think there is a passage in the Bible about a prodigal son that would fit neatly here. She did come back, she did her family good in the last few years and she stood firmly and caringly in support of her mother at an extremely difficult time when she was needed more than any other. I bet that her father would have "slaughtered a fatted calf" and thrown the finest banquet to welcome his prodigal daughter home.
Give it time, she'll be out there with the gun grabbers and million mom marchers and NARAL boobs.
I agree. I observed Patti closely during the many ceremonies, and I think she's more on our side than not. I certainly no longer have a beef with her.
Thank you, MadIvan. It was very comforting to know of Pres. Reagan's last moments on earth.
Darn it. Now I'm crying again.
I'll second that, Gramma! Welcome back, MadIvan!
Thought you might want to read this......Have mixed feelings about Patty, (but do hope she and ours all see the light....)
She's not a child anymore, but even my dem friends said she looked bad....like a leftover flower child.
Yes, she looked by far to be the most distraught of all the family members, especially during the service at the Cathedral. I hope she has found peace within herself through all the tributes to her father.
Looks like Patti had a great teacher, and she leaned how to live and deal with life from a master.
I sympathize with her 1960/70's disrespect.
Afterall it musta been hard to fit in (in youth culture)- in those foolish times - as the "Gov's" daughter.
Di-toe to what you said!
Thanks for a beautiful post. Where have you been hiding?
By 1980, though, I'd come to my senses. I voted for Patti's dad, and never have voted for another Rat since.
Spite is often jealousy made whole.
Spite is often jealousy made whole.
Oh yeah, Patty is a Dem. She said so the other night in an interview on PBS. She said that her Dad was wrong about the Nuclear proliferation. She said he was "lucky" it worked, but it was foolish!
She has learned to appreciate her parents, and I am happy about that. At least this alzheimers had one good outcome. I pray for others.
Ron is an Atheist and a Democrat who often says awful things about Bush.
It is too bad, because while he gave his eulogy, I noticed how much I loved his voice! It was smoothe and soothing. He has a voice like Charles Kuralt, on his Sunday morning show.
Ronny wrote a friend that his biggest heartache was that Ron P. did not believe in God. Gets it from his mom, I guess.
Thank you for posting this. Very moving.
It is too bad, because while he gave his eulogy, I noticed how much I loved his voice!
Really? To me, he sounded phoney, and self-aggrandizing.
But then again I always thought he was skinny lil dweeb.
Carter also got me in '76. I too, have never voted for another Rat since. I can't imagine any circumstance which would cause me to vote for a Rat at any time in the future either. Though it wasn't RR alone who set me on this path, I am without doubt a product of Ronald Reagans vison of America.
And his comment about "a mandate from God". I believe that was directed at President Bush too. I'd really like to be wrong, but fear I am not.
I am glad you posted it. It was good to see her with her mother through out this difficult time. I know that both boys were there too but there is a different kind of bond between mothers and daughters....
So good of you to pass judgement on another....They were more than willing to accept her amends and grant her forgiveness. We can do no less
One wonders how many people who were not christian or were atheists had Billy Graham in the room with them when they passed?
Lamenting the waste of talent and time and the pain caused to her parents.
Very nicely said.
Thanks for the ping, hm. Her account of her father's death is very moving. I certainly made some messes in my life. My parents forgave me. It's a parent kind of thing.
She cut her nose to spite her face. Would you know if Patti ever married, what year was she born?
Apparently quite a few, in his early years--before he became famous he would often be called to the beds of dying people to see what comfort he might offer them and ease their passing.
When you think about it, the original statement makes sense, even without any metaphysical interpretations. For surely someone who, like a convinced Christian, is enthusiastic about impending death is going to have a very different experience in those last moments than someone who believes, rightly or wrongly, that he is about to be extinguished and may even be angry or bitter about the fact. The psyche is so powerful that it can overcome even great physical suffering.
Guess he proved that with Chris Matthews, didn't he...