Long before his death, before he took office, President Reagan was very involved in the planning of his funeral. There will be a few special personal touches, things he specifically asked for, including a request that the gospel hymn "Amazing Grace" be played on bagpipes at his sunset burial.
Sheila Tate, Nancy Reagan's former press secretary, helped the Reagans plan for this very emotional day. She spoke on the morning of the funeral and interment with The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm.
"Really, Ronald Reagan didn't sit around thinking about how he wanted to be remembered or his funeral," Tate emphasized. "It was the requirement that you plan your funeral gets foisted on you, and I don't think anybody…relishes the thought of doing it. But he made some notes and talked to his wife about it. And she's really the one who has planned it and made sure that any wishes he and she had got implemented. And we were just the implementers.
"We had suggestions occasionally," she added. "But this whole week reflects a combination of the traditions of a state funeral and the personal family wishes. They're simple and straightforward, I think. And that is to try to remind people that the man who has been off the scene for 10 years, who was our president and who…all of us who worked for him think was a truly great president and still consider it a huge privilege to have worked for him; to remind people about his heart and soul and his vision for the country."
In making the arrangements, Mr. Reagan personally asked several people to speak at his funeral, including Sandra Day O'Connor, whom he appointed as the first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court; his vice president, George H.W. Bush; and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
As the week of mourning proceeded, images of Nancy Reagan went to the hearts of many Americans. Tate, asked to give the public a sense of what Mrs. Reagan must have been going through on the day of the funeral and burial, said, "Oh, gosh. I mean, you know, she's having to go through this week with the full weight of grief on her, and she has to grieve publicly, which has got to be really, really hard.
"She's got, luckily, family and friends around her who are helping her," Tate continued. "But she's a strong person… She's focused. I know her. When she has something to do, she focuses on it, and it's done to the very best that it can be done. And I think that's where she is, and that's what's going to help get her through this long day today."
The interment will be at the Reagan Presidential Library, which sits in isolation on a hill in Simi Valley, Calif.
"It's a beautiful scene, and the burial will happen at sunset, which is what he wanted," said Tate. "If you go back and re-read his Alzheimer's announcement letter, he talked about beginning the journey into the sunset of his life. And I think it's just fitting that he'll finally be laid to rest with a view of the west that he loved, right at sunset, a time that he loved as well."