President George H.W. Bush died last week at the age of 94, marking the end of a life devoted to service. Bush delayed attending college after the attack on Pearl Harbor, enlisting in the Navy at age 18. He flew 58 combat missions, including one in which he several others were shot down. Several were captured and killed, but Bush survived and evaded the enemy until he was rescued. The experience left him with a deep sense of duty. In the years following the war, Bush became a successful oilman in Texas, a congressman, Ambassador to the United Nations, Chief of the Liaison Office in China, Director of the CIA, and Vice President before being elected 41st President of the United States in 1988.
Quite a resume.
Yet, as I watched the coverage of the flag-draped casket lying in state and the funeral, what stood out to me was the Bush’s commitment to family. In his eulogy, President George W. Bush said that after the death of Barbara, all George wanted to do was to hold her hand again. They had been married for 73 years, the longest of any presidential marriage. When W. got the call that his dad had just a few minutes to live, he told him he loved him, and President Bush’s last words were, “I love you, too.”
Our lives are full of important concerns and plenty of distractions; President Bush’s more than most. We can only imagine the number of holidays, school plays and soccer games he missed over the years, but President Bush worked to make his family a priority in his life, and upon his death his kids remembered him not as a soldier, titan of industry, statesman or politician, but as their beloved dad. So may it be true of us all.
President and Executive Director