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'If a death can be lovely, his was'

June 08, 2004 16:04 IST

After days in coma, Ronald Reagan opened his eyes for a few seconds to stare at his wife Nancy before taking his last breath,  reports The Times, London.

It quotes the former president's daughter, Patti Davis, as saying that her father, crippled by Alzenheimer's disease for over a decade, had not been able to recognize Nancy, now 82, for a number of years.

'He could no longer talk, walk or feed himself. Despite having had years to prepare for his departure, Ms Davis said the reality was crushing her mother, said the article, titled 'Reagan rose from coma for last look at Nancy.'

'As the 93-year-old Mr Reagan's health deteriorated sharply last week, the family gathered by his bedside. Ms Davis held her mother as she was "shaking with so much pain you think if you were at the centre of the Earth you could probably feel it", '  it said.   

The man America loved

But, said the Times, 'in an article to be published later this week, she (Ms Davis) wrote: "At the last moment, when his breathing told us this was it, he opened his eyes and looked straight at my mother. Eyes that hadn't opened for days did, and they weren't chalky or vague. They were clear and blue and full of love. And they closed with his last breath. If a death can be lovely, his was."'

However, 'after nursing her husband of 52 years through a final devastating decade of Alzheimer's, Mrs Reagan was relieved at his passing,'  the article said.

"While it is an extremely sad time for Mrs Reagan, there is definitely a sense of relief that he is no longer suffering and that he has gone to another place," the newspaper quoted Joanne Drake, Mr Reagan's chief of staff, as saying.

The former president will be laid to rest with full state honors, which include services in California and Washington. From Wednesday morning, he will lie in state in the Rotunda of the US Capitol. This will stay open around the clock to allow the public to pay its respects, until the funeral at Washington National Cathedral on Friday morning.