The Faithful Departed: Jane Wyman (1917-2007)

Jane Wyman was buried in a Dominican habit. Bet you didn’t catch that fact in your local paper. For lazy obituary writers, she was Ronald Reagan’s first wife, earning the notoriety of being the sole ex-wife of an American president. A list of her acting credits followed, including her Oscar-winning performance as a deaf-mute woman in Johnny Belinda and her portrayal of the scheming matriarch on “Falcon Crest.”

It’s tempting to delve into the mystery surrounding her four brief marriages and her son’s sensationalist autobiographies of his miserable childhood. I prefer to note that her talent and career savvy paid the bills for over six decades.

Both Reagan and Wyman never commented on their marriage and divorce. In their generation, such criticism was none of your business. Hacks like me can wonder if her religious conversion and his political aspirations were incompatible. In the end, the woman who put on the same outfit as St. Catherine of Siena, died with dignity and was laid to rest accordingly.

I’m too young to be planning my funeral, but I take comfort that God has a plan for my messy life, too. There’s grace and mercy in this Church, a place where anyone, even actresses and housewives, can find eternal rest.