"To his very last days, Dad’s life was instructive. As he aged, he taught us how to grow with dignity humor and kindness — and when the good Lord finally called, how to meet Him with courage and with the joy of the promise of what lies ahead," the former president said during his eulogy

By Emily Zauzmer
December 05, 2018 12:45 PM

Former President George W. Bush is saying his final farewell to his father.

On Wednesday, at former President George H.W. Bush‘s funeral at Washington National Cathedral, George W. choked back tears as he remembered his political predecessor and beloved parent.

In the emotional eulogy, George W., 72, spoke fondly of Bush Sr., telling the assembled crowd of former presidents and dignitaries, “He was a genuinely optimistic man and that optimism guided his children and made each of us believe anything was possible.”

Bush, who gave his father’s casket a small pat as he crossed to the lectern, said Bush Sr. knew how to “die young.”

“In his nineties, he took great delight when his closest pal James A. Baker smuggled a bottle of Grey Goose vodka into his hospital room. Apparently it paired well with the steak Baker had delivered from Mortons,” he recalled to knowing laughs from the assembly.

“To his very last days, Dad’s life was instructive. As he aged, he taught us how to grow with dignity humor and kindness — and when the good Lord finally called, how to meet Him with courage and with the joy of the promise of what lies ahead.”

Credit: Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty
George W. Bush
| Credit: Alex Brandon - Pool/Getty
George W. Bush
| Credit: Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty

Calling his father “emphatic,” the younger Bush said that the former president “looked for the good in each person and he usually found it.”

“He recognized that serving others enriched the giver’s soul,” said George W. “To us, his was the brightest of a thousand points of light. … He accepted that failure is a part of living a full life but taught us never to be defined by failure.”

George W. noted that his father “encouraged and comforted but never steered” his five children.

“We tested his patience — I know I did — but he always responded with the great gift of unconditional love,” recalled George W.

“To us he was close to perfect but not totally perfect — his short game was lousy,” he added with a laugh. “The man couldn’t stomach vegetables — especially broccoli… and by the way, he passed these genetic defects along to us.”

Former Senator Alan Simpson, presidential biographer Jon Meacham and Canada’s former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney also delivered speeches.

George W. was the oldest son of Bush Sr., who died on Friday at age 94, and former First Lady Barbara Bush, who died in April at age 92. His siblings Jeb Bush, Neil Bush, Marvin Bush and Dorothy Bush Koch and their families looked on as the 43rd commander-in-chief spoke.

“Every day of his 73 years of marriage, dad taught us all what it means to be a great husband. … He was dedicated to her totally,” reflected George W. on Wednesday. He later added, “We’re going to miss you. … So through our tears, let us know the blessings of knowing and loving you, a great and noble man. … The best man a son or daughter could have. … And in our grief, let us know that dad is hugging Robin and holding mom’s hand again.”

Credit: Alex Brandon/AP/REX/Shutterstock

The four other living presidents — Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Donald Trump — and the five living first ladies — Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, George W.’s wife Laura Bush, Melania Trump, and Rosalynn Carter — were also in attendance.

Just as George W. offered parting words to his father, Bush Sr.’s last words were to his son.

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Before George W. died, Bush Sr. told him over the phone that he considered him a “wonderful dad,” The New York Times reported. George W. noted that he loved him.

“I love you, too,” Bush Sr. replied.

George W. confirmed the story during his eulogy on Wednesday.

That was the same message that Bush Sr. offered his son after the younger Bush took hold of the lofty office that the older Bush once held.

“What did he say to you when you [became] president?” Norah O’Donnell asked George W. on 60 Minutes on Sunday.

” ‘I love you,’ ” George W. recalled. “And, you know, as corny as that sounds to some — it is the most important words you can hear in life. You don’t hear a lot of people say ‘I love you’ when you’re president.”

On Saturday, George W. paid tribute to George H.W. on Instagram. “Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro, and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear Dad has died,” he wrote alongside a picture of his parents walking arm in arm.

“George H. W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for,” he said. “The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for the 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens.”