As you’ve all heard by now, one of the last living presidents has passed away.
George Herbert Walker Bush, our 41st president passed away on Friday evening, surrounded by friends and family.
President Bush was 94 years old. He was preceded in death by his wife, Barbara Bush. Before that, the couple mourned a daughter, Robin, who had died at the young age of 3 years old, from leukemia.
In life, he and his family were the target of many harsh barbs, but I’m a firm believer in letting partisan hangups drop, once someone has passed on. We don’t do anything or say anything to pain grieving families. We let our kinder nature show.
With that in mind, I have to give kudos to the cast of Saturday Night Live today.
They took a moment from their Weekend Update segment to honor the former president.
Hosts Michael Che and Colin Jost extended their condolences to the Bush family, before showing a clip of a past cameo appearance by Bush on the show.
“President Bush was famously a warm and gracious man who always understood the power of being able to laugh at yourself,” Jost said.
The clip featured Saturday Night Live alumnus, Dana Carvey, who did a hilarious impression of the first President Bush, back in the 90s.
“I’m watching you do your impression of me, and I’ve gotta say it’s nothing like me,” Bush said in the clip. “It’s bad, it’s bad.”
Carvey, who performed at the White House Christmas Party in 1992 at Bush’s invitation, said earlier this year that he enjoyed “so many warm moments” with Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush, who died in April.
“It was a different time,” Carvey said. “It wasn’t scorched-earth, angry politics.”
Imagine that. There were no angry attacks. There was no nastiness or hard feelings. A comedian did an impression, perhaps went a little overboard in portraying the man as a bit goofy, but that’s the nature of the business. He did this, and the president was the kind of guy who could see it, and actually enjoy it enough that he would invite the person getting laughs at his expense to important events.
We don’t have that kind of comfort with each other, anymore, and certainly not in the hyper-hateful world of American politics. That’s an absolute shame.
George H.W. Bush lived his life a patriot, and in service to his country.
He was a decorated Navy pilot in World War II. He was a Texas congressman. He was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, the director of the CIA, an envoy to China, and before taking the reins of the presidency in 1989, he was Vice President George H. W. Bush, serving beside President Ronald Reagan.Former Secretary of State James Baker remained a close, dear friend with Bush, long after they left their posts in Washington. He was with his old friend at the end, and shared those final moments in an interview with The New York Times on Saturday.
He called the end for his old friend, “sweet.”
Several things about the piece from The Times struck me.
His longtime friend and former secretary of state, James A. Baker III, arrived at his Houston home on Friday morning to check on him.
Mr. Bush suddenly grew alert, his eyes wide open.
“Where are we going, Bake?” he asked.
“We’re going to heaven,” Mr. Baker answered.
“That’s where I want to go,” Mr. Bush said.
Bush’s pastor, Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson Jr., rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, was with him in the end, as well, and said that Mr. Bush was ready to go. He didn’t want to go to the hospital when it became clear his health was fading. He was ready to go be with his Barbara and his Robin.
Of note, former President Barack Obama was in Houston for an event on Tuesday of last week. He paid a visit to Bush’s home to see how he was, at that time.
We are not enemies, people. This is a great example of how politics can be put aside for common decency.
And in the last hours, things were good.
Mr. Baker held Mr. Bush’s hand and rubbed his feet for nearly a half-hour. The other children, who live around the country, were called so they could tell their father goodbye.
Dr. Levenson, who arrived at 9:15 p.m., led those in the room in prayer. “We all knelt around him and placed our hands on him and prayed for him and it was a very graceful, gentle death,” he said. “It was very evident that that man was so deeply loved.”
There was no struggle, no prolonged period of labored breathing. At 10:10 p.m., the former president slipped away.
“If those things could be sweet,” Mr. Baker said, “it was sweet.”
The last words spoken by President Bush were to his oldest son, our 43rd president, George W. Bush.
Bush 43 was on speaker phone. He told his dad that he’d been a “wonderful father.”
His dad’s last words were to him at that time: “I love you, too.”
Civility, kindness, service for the good of others.
This was how President George Herbert Walker Bush lived his life, whether you agreed with his politics or the decisions he made in office, or not.
And I don’t know if we can ever get back to that time.