Anniversary prompts rush of fond memories
This coming Sunday marks the first anniversary of my father's death, and I will mark it by visiting the aircraft carrier that bears his name, the USS Ronald Reagan.
At 8 a.m., with Captain Jim Symonds and the crew, I will lay a wreath in honor of my dad.
As I get ready for that ceremony, I think back over the past year and what I've learned as I traveled all across America on speaking engagements to different organizations and listened to thousands and thousands of my fellow Americans express their love and admiration for Ronald Reagan.
As they shared with me their favorite Ronald Reagan stories or their favorite Ronald Reagan moments, I began to understand the reason why those vast crowds took the time last year to stand outside for hours upon hours just to be able to walk past my father's casket for a brief moment, whether it was at the Ronald Reagan Library at Simi Valley, Calif., or back in Washington at the Rotunda where he lay in state.
I have been able to spend time with Mikhail Gorbachev, who sat behind my daughter Ashley and my son Cameron at my dad's funeral in the National Cathedral. I spent moments with Lady Margaret Thatcher, my dad's staunch Cold War ally, and spoke with her about the accomplishments of the 1980s, when the two of them faced down an aggressive Soviet Union as it had never been faced down before.
I was pleased to hear that both of them also fondly recalled their own favorite Ronald Reagan stories and memories, just as had all of those Americans I've met over the past year.
To be able to hear all of these things is what has given me strength and helped me to get through this first year in my life that I haven't been able to go up to his home and spend time with my dad. But the fact that I can no longer be with him at his home does not mean that I haven't been able to visit him. I can visit him by going to the Ronald Reagan Library and standing by his burial site. I feel that I can be with him there.
I believe that I also visit with him when I see the twinkle in people's eyes that I always saw in his eyes, and to savor their hugs that remind me of the times when I hugged my dad and he hugged me. I speak about those hugs as I travel around the nation, and I'm overjoyed when people come up to me afterwards and reach out to hug me.
All this has empowered me to be out as much as I can to learn more about my father's impact on America, to learn more about this great nation and, in the process, learn more about myself.