For all of Nancy Reagans moments in the limelightfirst as a Hollywood star and then as first lady of California and the nationher finest moment was out of the limelight. That was her 10-year long caring for the Ronald Reagan we didnt know, the Ronald Reagan whose authority and intellect diminished as his mind was destroyed by Alzheimers. From all accounts she gave him the same love and attention she did before he came down with the disease. Maybe even more so.
The reason I especially appreciate her final devotion to her spouse is because I, like many other Americans, can identify with it. My parents are going through a similar experience. My mom has Alzheimers or perhaps severe dementiayou cant really be sure which it is until after death. The bottom line is, she rarely recognizes those around her, she hasnt been able to put a sentence together for more than 2 years, and about three months ago, she lost her ability to walk.
But what she hasnt lost is the love of the man she married 66 years agomy dad. I really dont think the two of them have ever loved each other more than they do now.
Fortunately theyve been careful with their money and can afford a full-time helper to move my mother around and see to her basic needs. But my father is never far awayeating with her, talking to her, or just silently holding her hand and kissing it.
As hard as it is to care for a beloved whos struck by this, there is a joyfulness in my parents house. They have made the wonderful discovery that while brain power can disappear, the soul (and the love that comes out of it) is still visiblein some ways more clearly than ever. My mothers sweet and loving spirit comes through in her smile, in her eyes, and in an occasional sentence jumble, which invariably has the word love in it. My father lives for those moments. I do, too.
My father is two years older than my mother, and he has a host of familiar ailments that come with age, including bad knees and kidneys. But his mind is good, and his caring for my mother these past several years has been the most heroic thing Ive ever seen him do. I have a new-found respect for the man, as Im sure the Reagan children developed for their mom. And to develop a renewed love and respect for your parents at the end of their life is a real blessing, and helps children fulfill their obligations with joy rather than out of a begrudging sense of duty.
Of course there are many frustrations that come with caring for a spouse hobbled by a lost mind. And Nancy Reagan was not hesitant about sharing details of that burden. But there is a beauty to behold between couples who have devoted their lives to each other. ..even when one of them gets sick. And the prolonged care that Nancy Reagan gave to her husband must have been beautiful to see. Of course I never saw them together in the final years. But as I see my folks this weekend, I will think of the Reagans, and their deep love that, like my parents love, endured through a cloudy mind.
God bless Nancy Reagan. God bless Ronald Reagan. And God bless their eternal love.
Rest in peace.
David Asman joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in 1997 and currently serves as host of “Forbes on FOX,” a weekend half-hour program that offers an informative look at the business week (Saturday from 11:00-11:30 AM/ET). Asman is also an anchor on FOX Business Network, where he co-hosts “After the Bell” (4-5 PM/ET) with anchor Melissa Francis.
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