Not so long ago a top writer for the Washington Post was going through some of President Ronald Reagan’s papers and, among those his wife Nancy cherished, the Post’s Karen Tumulty happened to come across a deeply-moving letter. Four pages and written by his hand, it was a heartfelt message written by the president to his wife Nancy’s father in August of 1982.
President Reagan even mentioned it in his diary but for the last 36 years the beautiful letter was “lost” in some cardboard box. Back then Reagan wrote, “Again at the W.H. More of Saturdays work plus a long letter I have to write to Loyal. I’m afraid for him. His health is failing badly.”
Fast forward to today. About 10 days ago, in an opinion piece, the writer Tumulty revealed Reagan’s heartfelt letter and, as in doing so, told us, “The discovery of this intimate missive, four pages of White House stationery randomly tucked in a file, stopped me. You do not have to be a Believer yourself — or believe that Reagan’s policies were perfectly aligned with Christian teachings — to appreciate what this private letter said about him.
“I could sense Reagan’s earnest intensity, how carefully he had collected his thoughts,” the writer added, “Not a word of his small, round script was crossed out. Had he written and revised several versions, sending the one that said just what he wanted it to? Near the end were three watery smudges. Spilled coffee? Someone’s later tears?”
Who among us will ever know? This belief bothered Reagan so badly that on a quiet Saturday in The Oval office, the most powerful man in the world, who won The Cold War without ever firing a shot, and who revived the patriotism of our land when he demanded, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” was intent on saving soul of a man he loved. Here is the transcript of what President Reagan wrote:
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RONALD REAGAN’S LETTER TO HIS DYING FATHER-IN-LAW
Aug. 7 
I hope you’ll forgive me for this, but I’ve been wanting to write you ever since we talked on the phone. I am aware of the strain you are under and believe with all my heart there is help for that.
First I want to tell you of a personal experience I’ve kept to myself for a long time. During my first year as Governor you’ll recall the situation I found in Calif. was almost as bad as the one in Wash. today. It seemed as if the problems were endless and insolvable.
Then I found myself with an ulcer. In all those years at Warner Bros., no one had been able to give me an ulcer and I felt ashamed as if it were a sign of weakness on my part. John Sharpe had me on Maalox and I lived with a constant pain that ranged from discomfort to extremely sharp attacks.
This went on for months. I had a bottle of Maalox in my desk, my briefcase and of course at home. Then one morning I got up, went into the bathroom, reached for the bottle as always and something happened. I knew I didn’t need it. I had gone to bed with the usual pain the night before but I knew that morning I was healed. The Maalox went back on the shelf.
That morning when I arrived at the office Helene brought me my mail. The first letter I opened was from a lady — a stranger — in the Southern part of the state. She had written to tell me she was one of a group who met every day to pray for me. Believe it or not, the second letter was from a man, again a stranger, in the other end of the state telling me he was part of a group that met weekly to pray for me.
Within the hour a young fellow from the legal staff came into my office on some routine matter. On the way out he paused in the door and said: “Gov. I think maybe you’d like to know — some of us on the staff come in early every morning and get together to pray for you.”
Coincidence? I don’t think so. A couple of weeks later Nancy and I went down to L.A. and had our annual checkup. John Sharpe, a little puzzled, told me I no longer had an ulcer but added there was no indication I’d ever had one. Word of honor — I never told him about that particular day in Sacramento.
There is a line in the bible — “Where ever two or more are gathered in my name there will I be also.”
Loyal I know of your feeling — your doubt but could I just impose on you a little longer? Some seven hundred years before the birth of Christ the ancient Jewish prophets predicted the coming of a Messiah. They said he would be born in a lowly place, would proclaim himself the Son of God and would be put to death for saying that.
All in all there were a total of one hundred and twenty three specific prophesys about his life all of which came true. Crucifixion was unknown in those times, yet it was foretold that he would be nailed to a cross of wood. And one of the predictions was that he would be born of a Virgin.
Now I know that is probably the hardest for you as a Dr. to accept. The only answer that can be given is — a miracle. But Loyal I don’t find that as great a miracle as the actual history of his life. Either he was who he said he was or he was the greatest faker & charlatan who ever lived. But would a liar & faker suffer the death he did when all he had to do to save himself was admit he’d been lying?
The miracle is that a young man of 30 yrs. without credentials as a scholar or priest began preaching on street corners. He owned nothing but the clothes on his back & he didn’t travel beyond a circle less than one hundred miles across. He did this for only 3 years and then was executed as a common criminal.
But for two thousand years he has … had more impact on the world than all the teachers, scientists, emperors, generals and admirals who ever lived, all put together.
The apostle John said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that who so ever believed in him would not perish but have everlasting life.”
We have been promised that all we have to do is ask God in Jesus name to help when we have done all we can — when we’ve come to the end of our strength and abilities and we’ll have that help. We only have to trust and have faith in his infinite goodness and mercy.
Loyal, you and Edith have known a great love — more than many have been permitted to know. That love will not end with the end of this life. We’ve been promised this is only a part of life and that a greater life, a greater glory awaits us. It awaits you together one day and all that is required is that you believe and tell God you put yourself in His hands.
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Then what happened? Did it work? The Washington Post story said that in the few days that remained in his life the neurosurgeon came to know the Lord. As Karen Tumulty wrote, “Two days before his death on Aug. 19, 1982, Davis sought out a hospital chaplain, and prayed with him, Nancy said. “I noticed he was calmer and not as frightened.”
“A deathbed conversion? That may have been a daughter’s wishful thinking.
“One thing, however, is certain,” the Post story read, “something that should not be lost as religious people rationalize their political allegiances today: Faith was not an electoral stratagem for Ronald Reagan; his private words show it was his starting point, and the core of who he was.”