United in grieving
Former presidents put aside differences to farewell Bush
AMERICA has bid farewell to former president George H.W. Bush with high praise, cannon salutes and gentle humour.
Yesterday’s state funeral in Washington celebrated the life of the Texan, the last president to fight for the US during a period of war.
His official goodbye was attended by three former presidents at the Washington National Cathedral as a fourth – George W. Bush – eulogised his father as “the brightest of a thousand points of light”. Following three days of remembrance in the capital city, the Air Force plane carrying Mr Bush’s casket took off yesterday for a final service and burial in Houston tomorrow.
His final resting place will be alongside Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years, and Robin Bush, the daughter they shared who died of leukaemia aged three.
The national funeral service held yesterday was a tribute to a president, a patriarch and a faded political era that prized military service and public responsibility.
It was laced with indirect comparisons with President Donald Trump but was not consumed by them, as speakers focused on Mr Bush’s public life and character – with plenty of cracks about his goofy side, too.
Mr Trump sat with his wife, a trio of ex-presidents and their wives, several of the group sharp critics of his presidency and one of them, Hillary Clinton, his 2016 Democratic foe.
Apart from courteous nods and some handshakes, there was little interaction between Mr Trump and the others. George W. Bush broke down briefly at the end of his eulogy while invoking the daughter his parents lost in 1953 and his mother, who died in April. He said he took comfort in knowing “Dad is hugging Robin and holding Mom’s hand again”.
The family occupied the White House for 12 years.
The elder Bush was “the last great-soldier statesman”, historian Jon Meacham said in his eulogy, “our shield”.
But he took a lighter tone, too, noting that Mr Bush, when campaigning in a crowded department store, once shook hands with a mannequin.
Rather than flushing in embarrassment, he simply quipped: “Never know. Gotta ask.”
Mr Meacham had reportedly read his eulogy to the ailing former president, who responded with the crack: “That’s a lot about me, Jon.”
His former plane, which often serves as Air Force One, arrived at Ellington Field outside Houston last night. As a motorcade subsequently carried Mr Bush’s remains to the family church, St Martin’s Episcopal, along a closed highway, hundreds of people took to the streets to see his casket travel past.
One driver of a stopped tanker truck climbed atop the hulking vehicle for a better view, and at least 15 firefighters scaled a pair of fire engines to salute.
Upon its arrival at the church, Bush’s casket was met by a military band and Houston Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner.
MOURNING: President Donald Trump (from left), Melania Trump, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter at the State Funeral for former US President George H.W. Bush, at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.