Great statesman, patriot and war hero ‘had no fear of death’
FORMER US President George H. W. Bush’s granddaughter last night told how he had no fear of death because he’d be ‘reunited with the people I’ve lost’.
Recalling their final conversation, Jenna Bush Hager said: ‘I had the opportunity to talk with my grandpa about the afterlife. He answered without any hesitation, “Yes, I think about it. 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.”
‘And I started crying. I managed to choke out, “Well, why? What do you look forward to?” And he said, “Well, when I die I’m going to be reunited with the people that I’ve lost.” ’
Mrs Bush Hager spoke as tributes poured in for America’s 41st president who died at his Texas home on Friday – eight months after his beloved wife Barbara passed away.
Bush was president from 1989 to 1993, a period which saw the final days of the Cold War, the break-up of the Soviet Union and the first Gulf War. He was a father of six – including son George W. Bush, who served as the 43rd president – grandfather of 17 and a great-grandfather of eight.
In a statement after the death of his father, who suffered from a form of Parkinson’s disease, George W. Bush said: ‘After 94 remarkable years our dear dad has died. [He] was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for.’
President Donald Trump, who has been publicly critical of the Bush family, praised Bush’s ‘essential authenticity, disarming wit and unwavering commitment to faith, family and country’.
Bill Clinton, who once described Bush as ‘the father I never had’, recalled a letter left in the Oval Office for him by Bush after losing the hardfought 1992 election that read: ‘When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that too. Your success now is a country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.’
Theresa May described him as ‘a great statesman and a true friend of our country’ and Barack Obama said that America had ‘lost a patriot and humble servant’.
Bush will be buried beside his wife and daughter, Robin, who died of leukaemia aged three in 1953. Born on June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts, Bush was the son of a steel magnate. Aged 18 he became the youngest fighter pilot in the US Navy and flew 58 combat missions in the Second World War and survived being shot down by the Japanese.
After marrying Barbara in 1945, he made a fortune in the oil industry before entering politics, first as a congressman, then as head of the CIA and vice-president. His single-term presidency was dominated by the collapse of communism and the first Gulf War.