A FOR­MER PRES­I­DENT’S EU­LOGY FOR HIS FOR­MER PRES­I­DENT DAD

Ge­orge W Bush de­liv­ered the eu­logy for his fa­ther, for­mer pres­i­dent Ge­orge HW Bush, dur­ing a state funeral at the Washington Na­tional Cathe­dral on Wed­nes­day. This is a tran­script

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - PEOPLE -

DIS­TIN­GUISHED guests, in­clud­ing our pres­i­dents and first ladies, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, for­eign dig­ni­taries, and friends: Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro and I, and our fam­i­lies, thank you all for be­ing here.

I once heard it said of man that “the idea is to die young as late as pos­si­ble”.

At age 85, a favourite pas­time of Ge­orge HW Bush was fir­ing up his boat, the Fidelity, and open­ing up the three-300 horse­power engines to fly – joy­fully fly – across the At­lantic, with Se­cret Ser­vice boats strain­ing to keep up.

At 90, Ge­orge HW Bush parachuted out of an air­craft and landed on the grounds of St Ann’s by the Sea in Ken­neb­unkport, Maine – the church where his mom was mar­ried and where he’d wor­shipped of­ten. Mother liked to say he chose the lo­ca­tion just in case the chute didn’t open.

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.

To his very last days, Dad’s life was in­struc­tive. As he aged, he taught us how to grow old with dig­nity, hu­mour, and kind­ness – and, when the good Lord fi­nally called, how to meet him with courage and with joy in the prom­ise of what lies ahead.

One rea­son Dad knew how to die young is that he al­most did it – twice. 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 HW 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.

Dad was al­ways busy – a man in con­stant mo­tion – but never too busy to share his love of life with those around him. He taught us to love the out­doors. He loved watch­ing dogs flush a covey. He loved land­ing the elu­sive striper. And once con­fined to a wheel­chair, he seemed hap­pi­est sit­ting in his favourite perch on the back porch at Walker’s Point con­tem­plat­ing the majesty of the At­lantic.

The hori­zons he saw were bright and hope­ful. He was a gen­uinely op­ti­mistic man. And that op­ti­mism guided his chil­dren.

He con­tin­u­ally broad­ened his hori­zons with dar­ing de­ci­sions. He was a pa­triot. Af­ter high school, he put col­lege on hold and be­came a Navy fighter pilot as World War II broke out. Like many of his gen­er­a­tion, he never talked about his ser­vice until his time as a pub­lic fig­ure forced his hand. We learned of the at­tack on Chichi Jima, the mis­sion com­pleted, the shoot-down. We learned of the death of his crew­mates, whom he thought about through­out his en­tire life. And we learned of his res­cue.

And then, an­other au­da­cious de­ci­sion; he moved his young fam­ily from the com­forts of the East Coast to Odessa, Texas. He and Mom ad­justed to their arid sur­round­ings quickly. He was a tol­er­ant man. Af­ter all, he was kind and neigh­bourly to the women with whom he, Mom and I shared a bath­room in our small du­plex – even af­ter he learned their pro­fes­sion: ladies of the night.

Dad could re­late to peo­ple from all walks of life. He val­ued char­ac­ter over pedi­gree. And he was no cynic. He looked for the good in each per­son – and usu­ally found it.

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 recog­nised that serv­ing oth­ers en­riched the giver’s soul. To us, his was the bright­est of a thou­sand points of light.

In vic­tory, he shared credit. When he lost, he shoul­dered the blame. He ac­cepted that fail­ure is part of liv­ing a full life, but taught us never to be de­fined by fail­ure. He showed us how set­backs can strengthen. None of his dis­ap­point­ments could com­pare with one of life’s great­est tragedies, the loss of a young child. 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 our mom. Dad al­ways be­lieved that one day he would hug his pre­cious Robin again.

He loved to laugh, es­pe­cially at him­self. He could tease and nee­dle, but never out of mal­ice. He placed great value on a good joke. That’s why he chose Simp­son to speak. On email, he had a cir­cle of friends with whom he shared or re­ceived the lat­est jokes. His grad­ing sys­tem for the qual­ity of the joke was clas­sic Ge­orge Bush. The rare 7s and 8s were con­sid­ered huge win­ners – most of them off-colour.

Ge­orge Bush knew how to be a true and loyal friend. He hon­oured and nur­tured his many friend­ships with his gen­er­ous and giv­ing soul. There ex­ist thou­sands of hand­writ­ten notes en­cour­ag­ing, or sym­pa­this­ing, or thanking his friends and ac­quain­tances.

He had an enor­mous ca­pac­ity to give of him­self. Many a per­son would tell you that Dad be­came a men­tor and a fa­ther fig­ure in their life. He lis­tened and he con­soled. He was their friend. I think of Don Rhodes, Tay­lor Blan­ton, Jim Nantz, Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger, and per­haps the un­like­li­est of all, the man who de­feated him, Bill Clin­ton. My sib­lings and I re­fer to the guys in this group as “brothers from other moth­ers”.

He taught us that a day was not meant to be wasted. He played golf at a leg­endary pace. I al­ways won­dered why he in­sisted on speed golf. He was a good golfer.

Well, here’s my con­clu­sion: He played fast so that 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.

He taught us what it means to be a won­der­ful fa­ther, grand­fa­ther and great-grand­fa­ther. He was firm in his prin­ci­ples and sup­port­ive as we be­gan to seek our own ways. He en­cour­aged and com­forted, but never steered. We tested his pa­tience – I know I did – but he al­ways re­sponded with the great gift of un­con­di­tional love.

Last Fri­day, when I was told he had min­utes to live, I called him. The guy who an­swered the phone said, “I think he can hear you, but hasn’t said any­thing 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.”

To us, he was close to per­fect. But, not to­tally per­fect. His short game was lousy. He wasn’t ex­actly Fred As­taire on the dance floor. The man couldn’t stom­ach veg­eta­bles, es­pe­cially broc­coli. And, by the way, he passed these ge­netic de­fects along to us.

Fi­nally, 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, vol­ume on high, all the while hold­ing Mom’s hand. Af­ter Mom died, Dad was strong, but all he re­ally wanted to do was to 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 HW 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 hon­our.

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 neigh­bour­hood 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 re­mem­ber you for ex­actly that and so 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 see the bless­ings of know­ing and lov­ing you – a great and no­ble man, and 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.

The New York Times

FOR­MER US pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush just af­ter he de­liv­ered the eu­logy at the funeral of his fa­ther, for­mer pres­i­dent Ge­orge HW Bush. |

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