After years of friendship throughout their time on “Little House on the Prairie,” when Michael Landon’s family asked Melissa Gilbert to deliver a eulogy at his funeral, she knew she had to say yes.
However, despite her emotion, she remained strong with the help of the former president, Ronald Reagan.
Executive producer Kent McCray organized the eulogies for Landon’s funeral and called Gilbert to asked if she’d deliver her own.
“I said of course, no question,” she wrote in her memoir, Prairie Tale. “The second I hung up, I regretted it. What the hell was I going to say? Scratch that. There was so much to say. But how was I going to stand up in front of his family, his children, his friends and talk about him without bludgeoning everyone with my feelings?”
Accoridng to Gilbert, she felt a lot of pressure to “bring some comfort to the people who [were] grieving.”
“It wasn’t about standing in front of everyone and bawling like a self-absorbed idiot, which was what I pictured myself doing,” she wrote. “How could I not get up there and just cry?”
Melissa Gilbert Finds Comfort From Former President During Eulogy
“I found it impossible to write a eulogy that articulated my relationship with Mike, what he meant to me. And also what his loss meant to me,” she wrote. “I tried numerous times without success.”
The night before the eulogy, she compiled all of her notes into something she felt worked and she also “prayed to Mike to help [her] through it.”
“It also helped that I was married to a playwright, who gently nudged me forward,” she wrote.
“By midnight I was done, and then I spent the rest of the night tossing and turning, terrified of what would happen the next day.”
She saw people from her “Little House” days, like Melissa Sue Anderson and Karen Grassle.
When it was Gilbert’s turn to speak, she approached the stage “with a huge lump in [her] throat.”
“I managed to get through my remembrance by focusing with laser-like precision on two people, one on each side of the room: former president Ronald Reagan and singer Al Jarreau,” she wrote. “Since I didn’t know either one of them, I was able to deliver my eulogy without feeling an emotional connection. If I had looked at Karen, Melissa Sue, or one of Mike’s kids, I would have ended up a puddle of tears.”
After the service, everyone gathered at Landon’s former home in Malibu.
“It was very comforting to be around people who’d known Mike so well and loved him as much as I did, if not more.”