What Nancy Reagan Chose for Her Funeral: A Love Letter from Her 'Ronnie,' Peonies and a Farewell from Her Children
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Before she is laid to rest on Friday beside the love of her life, Nancy Reagan and her extraordinary life will be celebrated in a funeral ceremony that the former First Lady planned herself – “from the program participants to the flowers, peonies, her favorite,” an official from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation tells PEOPLE.
“We did add one thing to the program that she hadn’t specifically requested – President Reagan loved bagpipe music, and his funeral ended by the playing of bagpipes. We have decided to end her funeral the same way, as a tribute to him and their love.”
“Battle Hymn of the Republic,” sung by the Santa Susana High School Choir, will open the program, according to a program released Thursday morning by the foundation. Nancy chose the patriotic hymn because it was “her husband’s favorite song,” the official says.
Eulogies will be given by Nancy’s two children, Ron Reagan Jr. and Patti Davis, who told NBC’s Today on Thursday that she would share poignant memories and funny stories of the mother with whom she had a complicated relationship.
The dozens of dignitaries – including former presidents George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, and four of America’s first ladies – expected to attend will also hear Nancy’s favorite passages from Scripture and reflections from former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw.
In what promises to be an especially emotional moment, one of the hundreds of love letters Ron wrote to her will be read by former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who was in office at the same as Reagan and forged a lasting close friendship with the first couple.
The 1st Marine Division Band from Camp Pendleton will provide the instrumental prelude to a program led by the Rev. Stuart A. Kenworthy, vicar of the Washington National Cathedral, and including:
• “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” sung by the Santa Susana High School Choir
• Reading of Proverbs 31:10-31 by Ms. Anne Peterson
• Letter from Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan, read by the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney
• “Ave Maria,” sung by Opera singer Ms. Ana Marie Martinez
• Reading of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, read by Mr. Barton Hegeler
• Gospel Reading of John 14:1-6 by Ms. Diane Sawyer
• Pie Jesu-Requiem, sung by Opera singer Ms. Ana Marie Martinez
• Reflections by the Honorable James A. Baker
• Reflections by Mr. Tom Brokaw
• Reflections by Ms. Patti Davis
• Reflections by Ronald Prescott Reagan
• Amazing Grace, sung by the Santa Susana High School Choir
• Recessional with bagpipe played by Piper Major Bill Boetticher
• God Bless America
Conservative columnist George Will was to be among the honorary pallbearers.
Nancy, who told close friends she believed in an afterlife and longed to be reunited with her husband, will be buried right beside the former president on the library’s grounds.
As Davis said Thursday, “I’m happy for her that she’s with my father now.”
• With reporting by LIZ MCNEIL