Former President George W. Bush eulogized his father Wednesday at National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., referencing many famous moments from the 41st president’s life while sharing moments of love he showed to his family.
In about 10 minutes, the younger Bush provided a sweeping picture of his father's life that included a reflection on his father's final moments.
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"Last Friday when I was told he had minutes to live, I called him," Bush said. "I said ‘Dad, I love you and you've been a wonderful father.' And the last words he would ever say on earth were, ‘I love you, too.'"
The 43rd president reminisced on his dad’s vibrance and the fullness of his life, even as he lived to the age of 94.
"I once heard it said of man that the idea is to die young as late as possible," he joked.
The theme of the elder Bush’s energy came up repeatedly in his son’s encomium—it characterized his work in the Oval Office as well as his play on the golf course.
"He taught us that a day was not meant to be wasted. He played golf at a legendary pace. I always wonder why he insisted on speed golf," Bush said. "Here's my conclusion: he played fast so he could move on to the next event, to enjoy the rest of the day, to expend his enormous energy, to live it all."
"He was born with just two settings, full throttle, then sleep," Bush added.
Bush 41’s Secretary of State James Baker appeared in a humorous anecdote regarding Bush’s time in the hospital late in life.
"In his 90s, he took great delight when his closest pal, James A. Baker, smuggled a bottle of Grey Goose vodka into his hospital room. Apparently it paired well with the steak Baker had delivered from Morton's," he said.
Bush said providence guided his father’s life and explains how he survived to the age he did.
"When the Good Lord finally called, how to meet him with courage and with the joy of the promise of what lies ahead. One reason Dad knew how to die young is that he almost did it, twice," Bush said. "When he was a teenager, a staph infection nearly took his life. A few years later he was alone in the Pacific on a life raft, praying that his rescuers would find him before the enemy did. God answered those prayers. It turned out he had other plans for George H.W. Bush. For Dad's part, I think those brushes with death made him cherish the gift of life, and he vowed to live every day to the fullest."
Bush’s passing has occasioned much discussion about politics in former times, and George W. Bush, the first president elected in the 21st Century, noted that his father was not prejudiced in favor of those with "pedigree."
"Dad could relate to people from all walks of life. He was an empathetic man. He valued character over pedigree, and he was no cynic. He looked for the good in each person and he usually found it," Bush said. "Dad taught us that public service is noble and necessary, that one can serve with integrity and hold true to the important values like faith and family. He strongly believed that it was important to give back to the community and country in which one lived. He recognized that serving others enriched the giver's soul."
"To us, his was the brightest of a thousand points of light," Bush said, referencing a line from one of his father’s speeches.
But Bush also discussed the pain in his father’s life, foremost the loss of his daughter Robin.
"None of his disappointments could compare with one of life's greatest tragedies, the loss of a young child," Bush said. "Jeb and I were too young to remember the pain and agony he and Mom felt when our 3-year-old sister died. We only learned later that Dad, a man of quiet faith, prayed for her daily. He was sustained by the love of the Almighty and the real and enduring love of her mom. Dad always believed that one day he would hug his precious Robin again."
Bush finished the eulogy praising the example his father set in personal and public life.
Every day of his 73 years of marriage, Dad taught us all what it means to be a great husband. He married his sweetheart. He adored her. He laughed and cried with her. He was dedicated to her totally. In his old age, Dad enjoyed watching police show reruns, the volume on high, all the while holding Mom's hand. After Mom died, Dad was strong, but all he really wanted to do was hold Mom's hand again. Of course Dad taught me another special lesson: He showed me what it means to be a president who serves with integrity, leads with courage and acts with love in his heart for the citizens of our country. When the history books are written, they will say that George H.W. Bush was a great president of the United States, a diplomat of unmatched skill, a commander in chief of formidable accomplishment, and a gentleman who executed the duties of his office with dignity and honor. In his inaugural address, the 41st president of the United States said this: "We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account, we must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood and town better than he found it."
What do we want the men and women who work with us to say when we are no longer there—that we were more driven to succeed than anyone around us, or that we stopped to ask if a sick child had gotten better and stayed a moment there to trade a word of friendship? Well, Dad, we're going to remember you for exactly that and much more, and we're going to miss you. Your decency, sincerity, and kind soul will stay with us forever. So through our tears, let us know the blessings of knowing and loving you, a great and noble man, the best father a son or daughter could have. And in our grief, let us smile knowing that Dad is hugging Robin and holding Mom's hand again.