Bar­bara Bush: Say­ing The Un­ex­pected


I’ve al­ways ad­mired Bar­bara Bush. Like mil­lions of oth­ers I was sad­dened to hear about her de­clin­ing health and then re­cent death. Many tele­vi­sion trib­utes and well de­served ac­co­lades have been ver­bal­ized in re­cent days. Her beau­ti­ful fu­neral ser­vice and all that was said from their Hous­ton Epis­co­pal Church was a trib­ute to one of Amer­ica’s finest ladies.

I had the op­por­tu­nity to have my pic­ture taken with the First Lady many years ago. She was speak­ing at a ban­quet and my as­sign­ment was to do an open­ing prayer for the oc­ca­sion. Be­ing on the pro­gram af­forded me the op­por­tu­nity to sit close to her while she would later speak. We were meet­ing un­der a large tent and it was a breezy day. The flag was oc­ca­sion­ally blow­ing into her face and so I took hold of the end of it and held it dur­ing her speech. Dur­ing the course of her talk she would be­gin to drive home a point about some­thing bad the democrats were do­ing or some other is­sue in which she had strong feel­ings. To ac­cen­tu­ate her point she would pref­ace or add a bit of declar­a­tive un­der­score by us­ing the word damn. No­body in the po­lit­i­cal crowd seemed to be both­ered by the First Lady’s rhetoric and of course I had heard the word be­fore as well. Dur­ing her speech she used the word three times. Af­ter each time she said the word she would stop her speech, pause and look straight at me and say, “Sorry Rev­erend” and then slowly she would get back into her speech. She did that three times. I think I was her ice­breaker or a bit of a punch line that day and it was okay as I smiled with her. She was very kind to me and gra­cious and very well re­ceived by all who were there that day.

A lot has been said in ad­mi­ra­tion about Bar­bara Bush. I par­tic­u­larly ad­mired that she told her son Jeb a cou­ple of years ago that there had been enough Bushes in the White House. Of course she loved and sup­ported her son but many of us agreed with her can­dor.

Jeb Bush did a fine job speak­ing at his mother’s fu­neral. He gave a beau­ti­ful eu­logy that would make any par­ent proud. His ques­tion to her about her readi­ness to face death was touch­ing and is some­thing too many feel un­com­fort­able talk­ing about. We want some­one else to do that for us. Jeb asked her if she was ready to die. Her re­sponse was lovely. “I don’t want to leave your fa­ther but I do love Je­sus and be­lieve I am go­ing to a beau­ti­ful place.”

Bar­bara Bush lived an in­cred­i­ble life. She and her fam­ily are a huge part of Amer­i­can his­tory. Ninety two years is a long time to live but passes so quickly. Af­ter this, there is eter­nity as she and many of us be­lieve.

I didn’t vote for Jeb but greatly re­spect that he loved his mother so much that he talked with her about the nitty gritty things of life – death and the af­ter­life. With all of their money, his­tory, fame and ador­ing fans the bot­tom line at the end of the road came down to a very sim­ple but pro­found con­ver­sa­tion about death and Je­sus.

As we all near the end of our lives, we should all be so for­tu­nate to have some­one who cares enough about us to be that per­sonal and lov­ing. Dr. Glenn Mollette is the au­thor of 12 books. He is Pres­i­dent of New­burgh The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary, New­burgh, In­di­ana and his syn­di­cated col­umn is read in all 50 states. The opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the au­thor and not nec­es­sar­ily those of this pa­per or its cor­po­rate own­er­ship.

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