I write these words after watching the solemn processional that carried President Reagan's casket to the Capitol. When the caisson arrived at the steps, you could hear the sound of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" in the background. Off to the side stood Mrs. Reagan--regal, dignified, beautiful in her grief. She was frail and she was strong. Slowly, carefully, the honor guard carried the casket up the long flight of stairs. When the casket arrived on the landing where Mrs. Reagan was standing, she reached out and touched it, as if to say goodbye one more time.
By all accounts President and Mrs. Reagan had an unusually close relationship. All week long we've heard how much the Mr. Reagan depended on her, and how Nancy took care of her husband during the long years after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. When we knew them best, he was the most powerful man in the world, and she was the first lady. Then she was a wife taking care of her husband. Now she is a widow.
What a lesson there is for us. It doesn't matter whether you're rich or poor. It doesn't matter whether you are the most powerful man in the world. It doesn't matter if you are President of the United States, or if you are married to him. If you live long enough, you will know pain. You will know heartache. If you live long enough, you will brush the tears away as death comes to your door. You will reach out to touch the casket.
There is coming a day when we will be set free from death and decay (Romans 8:21). Tonight President Reagan lies in state. But that is not the end of the story. Speaking from Paris last Saturday, President Bush ended his remarks about President Reagan this way: "He always told us that for America, the best was yet to come. We comfort ourselves in the knowledge that this is true for him, too. His work is done, and now a shining city awaits him."
Better days are coming for those who know the Lord. Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Every trace of this decaying world will be left far behind. The sufferings of this life will be but a dim memory, fading into the mists of a forgotten yesterday. It will be a happy day when God himself wipes all our tears away.