When Nancy Reagan died, she left a legacy that we can all claim as our own. At least, it’s within our grasp if we choose to reach for it.
Whether we think about it or not, we all leave legacies. Yours may not be the kind you can build a library around, but it will fill volumes of memory—in everyone around you.
The Sunday morning political gossip this week centered around the life and death of Nancy Reagan. Of course, it was national news, but only because she was the wife of former President Ronald Reagan. However, it was the kind of wife she was that created the substance of the news reports.
Close family friends, those who served her husband, and correspondents that covered the Reagan years in the White House all said essentially the same thing: Nancy Reagan was completely, unashamedly devoted to her husband.
She was not famous for the bills she wrote, the laws she passed, or a product or company she created. She did none of those things. She was a wife. Her most noted attribute was her adoring gaze at her husband, a man to whom she devoted her life. In doing so, she committed the ultimate sin against feminism. In the midst of all the glamour, power, and influence of the White House and Hollywood, Nancy never took her eyes off the prize: her beloved husband. Fairy tale marriage? Maybe. The only thing that makes a happily-ever-after marriage a fairy tale is believing that there is no work behind it, no self-sacrifice. That’s the fairy tale. It’s important to note that her husband was also devoted to her. They were a couple in every sense of the word.
During the Sunday talk shows, each person who was close to Nancy described her as a strong woman who knew what she wanted and had her own opinions and accomplishments. She carried herself with style, grace, and a commanding power of her own. Yet Nancy’s legacy was that she loved her husband and was fully devoted to him.
As someone born at the tail end of the Boomer generation, Nancy stands as a monument in my mind. Her life was a stark contrast to everything women in my generation were told was important.
When planning your life, setting your goals and dreams, it’s always best to begin at the end. When everyone gathers for your funeral, when your family lines the seats in the front row, what will they say? It’s at that moment everyone’s legacy will be revealed.
The presidential legacy of Ronald Reagan will be debated for years to come. But his love for his wife—and her love for him—will go down in history, unchallenged and admired. Nancy Reagan left a legacy that deep down we all aspire to: she loved deeply.
If you’re alive enough to read this, you can alter your legacy today. Simply follow Nancy’s example and focus on the most important part of your life.