By Andrea Mitchell, NBC News
Michael Deaver's friends came together at the National Cathedral today to celebrate what his good friend Jim Baker called "the miracle of a redeemed life." There were a lot of them: Some still powerful, some once powerful and others newly empowered -- several hundred former drug addicts whom Deaver had helped rescue from the streets of the nation's capital.
Henry Pierce spoke for them, from the pulpit where presidents and potentates are usually memorialized, to an audience that included Vice President Dick Cheney, former presidential candidate George McGovern, Nancy Reagan, Washington wise man Bob Strauss, and an army of former Reagan cabinet secretaries and White House staff. Pierce is now the director of an organization Deaver helped keep going called Clean & Sober Streets. As Pierce tells it, 15 years ago he was a dope addict who wandered in early one morning. A man in a baseball cap handed him a donut, a cup of coffee and a willing ear. Mike Deaver, who at his death had been sober for more than two decades, was rescuing another soul. Hundreds of them in the congregation stood to be recognized.
Jim Baker also spoke. He said Deaver had been afflicted by the twin Washington sins of pride and addiction, but that after his fall from grace, bitterness gave way to peace of mind. Preoccupation with self turned into selfless caring for others -- in many ways that will never be known.
Reagan would have pardoned him for his legal difficulties, but Deaver turned down a pardon. It might have hurt the president he loved.
Baker and Ed Meese, along with Deaver, were once known as "The Troika" -- the trio that ran the Reagan White House in the first term. Baker had helped get Reagan elected. Meese was the keeper of the conservative flame. But Deaver was more than staff. He was a friend, and a surrogate son.
Baker told how Reagan had a favorite blue plaid suit that could only be described as "garish." Nancy wanted him to ditch it. The staff, especially those in charge of photo ops, hated it. But Deaver was the only one who could get it done.
He went into the Oval Office and asked the President if he remembered the day in 1981 when he'd been shot. Of course, he said. And do you remember how they cut off the suit you were wearing when you got to the hospital? Yes, said Reagan. Well, said Deaver -- the staff wishes you 'd been wearing that blue plaid suit the day you were shot. Reagan never wore it again.
Johnny Mathis sang "Amazing Grace," which was amazing in itself. A soprano sang an aria from "Tosca." The choir reached to the heavens with Faure's "Requiem." Mike Deaver, who modestly said all he did was "do the lighting" for Reagan's greatest moments, had arranged it all.
Only days before he died of pancreatic cancer, Deaver sat on his deck in his favorite place -- California -- with his beloved wife Carolyn and told Baker "it doesn't get better than this." Always the optimist, just like the president he served.
Baker imagines a sweet homecoming in heaven -- Ronald Wilson Reagan trading hugs and handshakes with Mike Deaver, his very good friend.