“He Loved Barbara Very Much.” Those are the first words that President George H.W. Bush requested to be put on his gravestone, after that, his military service number.
Now I suppose there are jokes to be made about marriage and war, but in reality, those two parts of his life were the most important.
The Bushes are noted for the love notes that they wrote to each other during his military service, which reminds me of hearing about the letters between George and Martha Washington. Martha was quick to burn their letters after George passed, but George and Barbara preserved theirs.
George and Barbara were married 73 years, longer that most people live. Their love for each other was evident. Meeting when they were 17 and 16, she said of her husband, “I married the first man I ever kissed. When I tell my children that, they just about throw up.” Perhaps she’s onto something.
Noting that he was the last soldier to serve as president, it makes you appreciate even more the service that he gave to our country.
Their romance was on. He entered military training following the attack on Pearl Harbor, and then became part of World War II through the branch of the Unites States Navy.
During the war, the plane that he was flying was hit, causing the need to abandon the plane over the ocean which they did. After all the members parachuted out, he then jumped as well, leaving with a scar from a cut he received on the tail of the plane. He soon realized that some of his fellow crew mates didn’t survive, and he struggled with survivors guilt wondering why he survived and others didn’t.
In the eulogy by Jon Beachum, Bush’s biographer, he said, the answer to that was seen as he visited a child in the hospital. The boy he was visiting, had the same cancer that had taken his daughter Robin at the age of 3. As the emotions overcame him, he continued to look into the face of the child, and tearing up he realized he couldn’t turn to the cameras and show that he had been moved by his personal feelings. So he continued to face the child and hoped that the little boy realized that he loved him. Beachum said of Bush, “He was spared so that he could lead us and love us”
The former prime minister of Canada, Brian Mulroney said of the Bush family that he could see how George and Barbara were content. He could see their serenity and satisfaction as they saw their children succeed in life. At which point George showed him a plaque that had just been installed at Kennebunkport which said, “CAVU”. Bush explained that they had indeed been blessed and that Mulroney had them pegged just right. Bush explained that the letters CAVU stood for a term that any pilot wanted to hear before taking off. The letters stand for the term, “Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited” Bush explained that they were truly happy and truly at peace.
George W. Bush, 43, started his part of the service for his dad with the quote,”the idea is to die young, as late as possible.” He explained that his dad had a boat named “Fidelity” that he loved to start up and leave the secret service in the wake of the boat as he roared off.
Over and over the theme of the service was his love.
He loved his family, and he showed his undying love for Barbara. To the end, he held her hand as she passed away and as George his son pointed out, there was only one thing he wanted to do. He wanted to “hug Robin and hold mom’s hand again.”
His last words were fitting and summed up the theme of his life, especially for those closest to him. He hadn’t spoken the last day of his life. George, 41 called him, thanking him for everything that he had been as a father and grandfather. Ending his call he said, “ I love you you’ve been a wonderful father.”
George, 43’s last words on this earth were, “I love you too.”
Throughout the service you could see the old men, men in their late 80’s sobbing at their loss. They spoke about how James Baker, sat at his bedside and rubbed his feet for hours. The other, Alan Simpson former senator of Wyoming, who had filled a senate seat vacated by 41’s father, Prescott Bush, told about a time in his career when he was at his lowest, and Bush was at the peak of his presidency. The president took him to Camp David. Telling the president that he knew that he was “propping up a wounded duck” but he appreciated him reaching out to his “pal, in the midst of controversy and taking my lumps.”
“Yep,” Bush responded, “the staff told me not to. It’s about friendship and loyalty.”
That reminded me of a verse from Proverbs 22 that says, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.”
George had that figured out.
He left the world, but the world, or his corner of it, wanted more, no needed more of George.
Ending the service with Michael W. Smith singing his song, “Friends” was appropriate, but more fitting might have been, “A Few Good Men”.
The lyrics in part say:
What this dying world could use is a willing Man of God
Who dares to go against the grain & works without applause;
A man who’ll raise the shield of Faith, protecting what is pure;
Whose love is tough & gentle; a man whose word is sure.
God doesn’t need an Orator who knows what just to say;
He doesn’t need authorities to reason Him away;
He doesn’t need an army to guarantee a win;
He just needs a Few Good Men.
Men full of Compassion, who Laugh & Love & Cry
Men who’ll face Eternity & aren’t afraid to die
Men who’ll fight for Freedom & Honor once again
He just needs a Few Good Men.
He really was kinder and gentler, and was one of those thousand points of life. Here’s to hoping more of our men out there look at George for inspiration.