‘I’m go­ing to be re­united with those I’ve lost’

In his last months, Ge­orge HW Bush did not fear death, but in ways looked for­ward to it, writes Ben Ri­ley-Smith

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - George Hw Bush - ©Tele­graph

GE­ORGE H W BUSH no longer feared death in his fi­nal days and hoped to be re­united with the three-year-old daugh­ter he lost to leukaemia, his grand­daugh­ter re­vealed yes­ter­day, as the world paid trib­ute to the last Cold War pres­i­dent of the US, who died at his home in Texas aged 94 on Fri­day.

Of­fer­ing a mov­ing win­dow into the 41st pres­i­dent’s fi­nal mo­ments, Jenna Bush Hager, one of his twin grand­daugh­ters, said he told her on his deathbed: “I used to be afraid. I used to be scared of dy­ing. I used to worry about death. But now in some ways I look for­ward to it. When I die I’m go­ing to be re­united with these peo­ple that I’ve lost.”

Asked who he was think­ing about, Mr Bush said his wife Bar­bara, who died ear­lier this year, and Robin, their daugh­ter.

World lead­ers and US politi­cians of all stripes, in­clud­ing for­mer ri­vals, united to praise his ser­vice to Amer­i­can pub­lic life. Don­ald Trump can­celled a press con­fer­ence he was due to give at the G20 sum­mit in Ar­gentina in a mark of re­spect for Mr Bush, who was be­ing treated for a form of Parkin­son’s dis­ease.

Mr Trump de­clared a na­tional day of mourn­ing for Mr Bush would be held this Wed­nes­day. The US pres­i­dent will at­tend Mr Bush’s fu­neral at the Wash­ing­ton Na­tional Cathe­dral.

Ge­orge W Bush, Mr Bush’s son who went on to be­come Amer­ica’s 43rd pres­i­dent, called is fa­ther “a man of the high­est char­ac­ter and the best dad a son or daugh­ter could ask for”.

Mikhail Gor­bachev, the for­mer Rus­sian pres­i­dent whose time in of­fice over­lapped with Mr Bush, called him a “true part­ner”.

Pres­i­dent Michael D Hig­gins yes­ter­day paid trib­ute to Ge­orge HW Bush, say­ing he will be re­mem­bered for his pub­lic ser­vice to the peo­ple of the United States. He said that the Irish peo­ple learned “with sad­ness” of the death of the for­mer US Pres­i­dent.

Mr Hig­gins said Mr Bush led his coun­try at a pe­riod of sig­nif­i­cant change at a na­tional and global level and that the late 1980s to mid1990s were a pe­riod of “deep chal­lenges” to in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions.

He said: “To his pres­i­dency of the United States he brought all of the en­ergy and the val­ues he cher­ished, drawn from his Texas and Mas­sachusetts roots.”

Mr Hig­gins of­fered the “deep­est sym­pa­thies” of the Irish peo­ple to Mr Bush’s fam­ily and the peo­ple of the US.

Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar also of­fered his con­do­lences and said Mr Bush “left his mark on US pol­i­tics”.

He added that Mr Bush “helped to de­feat com­mu­nism, re­unify Ger­many and bring democ­racy to East­ern Eu­rope”.

For­mer Taoiseach John Bru­ton said he met Mr Bush long af­ter the for­mer US pres­i­dent had left of­fice, at an event in Co Kil­dare.

He re­called his “po­lite­ness and hu­mil­ity” as well as his “courage”.

He said Mr Bush told of how in his later years he trained to para­chute jump. It was in­tended to “ex­or­cise” an ex­pe­ri­ence from World War II when his air force plane was shot down. Mr Bru­ton said Mr Bush’s ex­pe­ri­ence of war led him to be “eco­nom­i­cal in the use of US mil­i­tary power”.

Mr Bush did para­chute jumps on his 75th, 80th, 85th and 90th birth­days.

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