- The Washington Times - Monday, June 7, 2004

Bags of jellybeans were laid with reverence around the Santa Monica mortuary. Flower bouquets were placed at the base of the president’s statue in his hometown of Dixon, Ill. Flags were hung at half-staff all across Washington. They will do so for the next 30 days, in silent tribute to the death of Ronald Reagan.

All this week, the nation will mourn his loss. Today, Mr. Reagan lies in repose at the Reagan Library. Tomorrow evening, the formal funeral procession will take the president to the Capitol, where he will lie in state. On Friday, the national day of mourning, Mr. Reagan will be honored at a state funeral at the National Cathedral after which he will be laid to final rest back in his beloved California.

Preparations for the procession and funeral service are underway. There are pages and pages of protocols. Even the smallest details are dictated — from the footsteps of the military guards to the placement of flower bouquets. Each is important, each has its place: The horse-drawn caisson, the lone drummer, the flag-draped coffin. Each strikes a different note in chords of the collective memory.

But in the larger sense, there is no truly fitting way to honor Mr. Reagan. Although those who loved him will try, there is no fitting way to say thanks. No procession, no matter how stately, no tribute, no matter how heartfelt, could truly commemorate the man who changed the world in such a profound manner.

In time, the flowers from the impromptu memorials will fade, the bags of jellybeans will be discarded, the flags will fly at full-staff once again. The memories of even those who had the honor of working closely with Mr. Reagan will fail.

But Mr. Reagan’s optimism, his confidence that Americans could achieve beyond their wildest dreams, will remain. That memorial, inscribed on the American spirit, is his and ours. If tended with care, that memorial of the heart will outlast even the stones laid in his honor.

Concluding his announcement of Alzheimer’s Disease, Mr. Reagan wrote, “I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.” That trust is ours now. Long after he has been laid to rest, the best memorial for Mr. Reagan will remain the one set in each heart.

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