‘Dad, I love you and you’ve been a wonderful father…’,Bush jnr’s moving tribute to his father
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“LAST Friday when I was told he had minutes to live, I called him. The guy answered the phone, said: “I think he can hear you but he hasn’t said anything for most of the day.” 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 above was how George Walter Bush, the 43rd President of the United States of America, described the final moments of his father, George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of the United States of America.
It was a moving tribute, laced with emotions and humor, and delivered with precise perfection to an audience made up of family, friends, and associates of the Bush’s, at the Washington National Cathedral.
The younger Bush described his father as “a genuinely optimistic man” whose “optimism guided his children and made each of us believe that anything was possible”, a patriot who had to “put college on hold and became a navy fighter pilot as World War II broke out”, and “a man in constant motion, but never too busy to share his love of life with those around him”.
“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 mentioned “Don Rhodes, Taylor Blanton, Jim Nantz, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and perhaps the unlikeliest of all, the man who defeated him, Bill Clinton” as friends who went on to become more like members of the Bush family.
He took the audience down the memory lane to how his dad, at 85 loved embarking on boat rides at top speed, and how, at 90 he once “parachuted out of an aircraft and landed on the grounds of St. Anne’s by the Sea in Kennebunkport, Maine”.
Personally, Bush said his father taught him “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”.
“To his very last days, dad’s life was instructive. As he aged, he taught us how to grow with dignity, humor, and kindness. When the good Lord finally called, how to meet him with courage and with the joy of the promise of what lies ahead,” Bush said.
And when he described Bush senior as “the best father a son or daughter could have”, the younger Bush broke down in tears.
“So through our tears,” he said, “let us know the blessings of knowing and loving you, a great and noble man. And in our grief, let us smile knowing that Dad is hugging Robin and holding Mom’s hand again.”
George Walter Bush is the second US President whose son also became President. The first was John Adams, the second US President, whose son, John Quincy Adams, became the sixth US President and served from 1825-1829.
Another funeral service is currently ongoing for the Bush at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, after which he will be buried at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, beside his wife Barbara, and daughter Robin who died at the age of 3.