Last Sunday morning, when I heard that Nancy Reagan had passed away, I knew that I wanted to write an Insight article remembering her contributions to her husband and to our country. I also wanted to use her passing as a rare opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of women who have pursued the excellent but unappreciated career of taking on the role of the traditional wife.
Honestly, I have debated with myself all week whether or not I should commemorate her as planned or go with another topic. My hesitation is that she is a figure from the political world, and I have possibly written too often recently about politics.
But, after listening to the eulogies from her funeral, I decided to pay tribute to her and what her life stood for. As the stories and remembrances from the eulogies recalled, Nancy Reagan was an extraordinary woman and an extraordinary wife.
Some shortsighted people will not like this article because it commends those women who have chosen to play a supportive role to their husband’s career and success. But I believe commending one vocation, that of the traditional wife, does not devalue the choices and contributions other women make who choose to pursue their own career. Success comes in many forms and honoring one form of success does not devalue the other.
Many things have been shared in the last week about Nancy Reagan and her relationship with Ronald Reagan. The most impressive thing shared by many people who knew them well was how intensely they loved each other. Some people observed that Ronald and Nancy had ceased to be individuals and had become one. Others noted that when the two of them got together, they became capable of more than the sum of them separately.
When my wife and I got married many years ago, we coined a phrase that we wanted one plus one to equal three. Clearly the Reagans used this same math and lived in this same reality, also.
They were complementary partners. He was outgoing, charming, and never met someone he did not like. She was reserved, analytic, and protective of him. He could fill a room with his presence and visionary words. She built a close circle of friends and allies that created a safe zone for him and served as a base for his ability to lead.
Mr. and Mrs. Reagan were classy and stylish, but not condescending. While confident, they were not arrogant. Despite holding strong beliefs, they were not abrasive or rude. Contrary to most politicians today, they spent time complimenting and lifting people up, not ripping them apart.
Most significantly, especially in their later years as Ronald Reagan battled Alzheimer’s, Nancy demonstrated her love for him by lovingly taking care of him for ten years before he passed away. Those in the Reagan’s inner circle spoke of how intensely they loved each other. Even in the midst of a group of friends it would be clear how connected they were.
The comments and stories about Nancy Reagan this week have shed light on her incredible role as the behind-the-scenes strength to her husband’s public life and accomplishments. Many have noted that without Nancy Reagan, Ronald Reagan would likely never have run for President, much less have been elected. Throughout the week it has become abundantly clear that she was a huge reason for Mr. Reagan’s success.
And, if he were still here, Ronald Reagan would be the first person to tell everyone how important she was to him. Almost from the moment he met her, he knew that he had met the woman that he needed in his life to make him complete. He was humbled, as all happily married men should be, with the blessing of a wonderful wife.
I have been blessed, as Reagan was, with a wife who has complemented my life for nearly thirty-seven years. She allowed me to become more than I would ever have become without her. I thank God daily for that blessing.
The phrase, “Behind every good man there is a good woman,” used to be popular. In today’s culture, both in marriage and in other partnerships, the role of the behind-the-scenes person is often devalued.
Yet the truth is, many of us have been blessed with a life partner who has made us better than we were or would have been without them. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to fail to acknowledge their contributions to our lives on a daily basis. Therefore, I encourage you to use the passing of Nancy Reagan as an opportunity to tell your wife, husband, or significant other how grateful you are for their support and for sharing their life and love with you.
And, in closing, thank you, Annie, for being by wife, partner and lover. Thanks for being my Nancy Reagan.