President George W. Bush recalled his father George H.W. Bush’s “courage” and “integrity” during his eulogy at the Washington National Cathedral before breaking down in tears when he lauded him as the “best father a son or daughter could have.”
“We’re going to miss you. Your decency, sincerity and kind soul will stay with us forever. So through our tears let us know the blessings of knowing and loving you, a great and noble man,” the son of the former president told the gathering of foreign dignitaries, past and present commanders-in-chief and congressional lawmakers. “The best father a son or daughter can have, and in our grief we can smile knowing dad is hugging Robin and holding mom’s hand again.”
Bush 41’s daughter Robin died at the age of 3 in 1953 and his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, died in April.
Calling to mind his father’s and mother’s 73-year-marriage, Bush said as his dad got older he enjoyed watching police show reruns – “the volume on high, all the while holding mom’s hand.”
“After mom died, dad was strong,” he said. “But all he really wanted to do was hold mom’s hand again.”
The son praised his father for showing him how to overcome setbacks and who through his optimism “made his children believe anything was possible.”
The elder Bush also set an example for the presidency.
“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,” Bush said. “When the history books are written they will say that George H.W. 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 honor.”
He recalled how he called his father last Friday after learning that Bush 41 had only a few minutes to live.
“Dad, I love you and you’ve been a wonderful father,” Bush told him. “And the last words he would ever say on earth were, ‘I love you, too.’”
Remembering how George H.W. Bush nearly died twice – once from a staph infection as a teenager and once when as a young pilot he was shot down in the Pacific in World War II – Bush said those experience drove his father the rest of his life.
“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,” he said.
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