On Friday, George Herbert Walker Bush — 41st president of the United States and father of the 43rd — died at his Houston home at the age of 94. His death comes only seven months after that of his wife of 73 years, Barbara Bush.
Bush had suffered from declining health in recent years, having already been in and out of the hospital in 2018. According to a report in The New York Times on Saturday morning, his last few days were spent largely in sleep.
Former secretary of state James A. Baker III arrived at the family’s Houston home on Friday to check in on his longtime friend, joining several other friends and family members.
Baker said that the family put Bush’s son, George W. Bush, on speakerphone Friday evening, and George W. said he’d been a “wonderful dad” and that he loved him. His father responded, “I love you, too” — his last words.
More: Barbara Bush Dies at 92
During his lifetime, George H.W. Bush was known as a steadfast force for good on the national and international stage. He was also known for his consummate public service, his unwavering ethics and his deep and abiding love for the American people.
Memories and condolences from family, friends and admirers have already begun flooding social media.
George W. announced the news, honoring his dad’s legacy of integrity. “Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro, and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear dad has died. George H.W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 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,” his statement read.
— George W. Bush Presidential Center (@TheBushCenter) December 1, 2018
Jeb Bush followed suit, tweeting, “I already miss the greatest human being that I will ever know. Love you Dad!”
I already miss the greatest human being that I will ever know. Love you Dad!
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) December 1, 2018
Jenna Bush Hager, daughter of George W. Bush, posted multiple Instagram tributes to her grandfather. “Waking up missing this giant of a man who gave me everything,” she wrote in the first. “He taught me and my family about service, family, decency, the power of gentle words and a beautiful heart. I will miss him desperately but so happy he and my Grandmother are back together.”
In another, she shared an illustration of her late grandmother and grandfather along with their daughter, Robin, who died of leukemia at age 3. The image, which Hager said brought her “such comfort,” reminded her of Bush Sr.’s thoughts on the afterlife.
“This is what he said: He answered without any hesitation. ‘Yes, I think about it. I used to be afraid. I used to be scared of dying. I used to worry about death. But now in some ways I look forward to it,’” Hager wrote, adding that her grandfather felt this way because “I hope I see Robin, and I hope I see my mom.”
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This brought me such comfort this morning. I had the opportunity to talk with my grandpa about the afterlife. This is what he said: He answered without any hesitation. “Yes, I think about it. I used to be afraid. I used to be scared of dying. I used to worry about death. But now in some ways I look forward to it.” And I started crying. I managed to choke out, “Well, why? What do you look forward to?” And he said, “Well, when I die, I’m going to be reunited with these people that I’ve lost.” And I asked who he hoped to see. He replied, I hope I see Robin, and I hope I see my mom. I haven’t yet figured it out if it will be Robin as the three year old that she was, this kind of chubby, vivacious child or if she’ll come as a middle-aged woman, an older woman. And then he said, “I hope she’s the three-year-old.” Robin was the daughter this giant of a man lost years before to leukemia. The little girl he held tightly: who spoke the phrase I have heard Gampy repeat for my entire life, forever knitting Robin’s voice into the tightly woven fabric of our family: “I love you more than tongue can tell.”
Barack Obama, who has fostered a close friendship with the Bush family in recent years, also took to Twitter to pay his respects.
“America has lost a patriot and humble servant in George Herbert Walker Bush. While our hearts are heavy today, they are also filled with gratitude. Not merely for the years he spent as our forty-first President, but for the more than 70 years he spent in devoted service to the country he loved,” Obama’s statement read. “After seventy-three years of marriage, George and Barbara Bush are together again now, two points of light that never dimmed, two points of light that ignited countless others with their example.”
America has lost a patriot and humble servant in George Herbert Walker Bush. While our hearts are heavy today, they are also filled with gratitude. Our thoughts are with the entire Bush family tonight – and all who were inspired by George and Barbara’s example. pic.twitter.com/g9OUPu2pjY
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) December 1, 2018
Dan Quayle, Bush’s vice president, called his former running mate a “completely genuine, decent and honorable person” and a role model.
Fellow former president Bill Clinton wrote, “Hillary and I mourn the passing of President George H.W. Bush, and give thanks for his great long life of service, love and friendship. I am grateful for every minute I spent with him and will always hold our friendship as one of my life’s greatest gifts.”
Hillary and I mourn the passing of President George H. W. Bush, and give thanks for his great long life of service, love and friendship. I am grateful for every minute I spent with him and will always hold our friendship as one of my life’s greatest gifts. https://t.co/1CYdrIeKmz
— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) December 1, 2018
President Donald Trump issued a statement regarding Bush’s death on Twitter and ordered flags to fly at half-staff for 30 days to honor Bush. According to USA Today, Trump will attend Bush’s funeral at the National Cathedral, although the time and details of the service have yet to be released.
Bush will lie in state next week at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, giving the American people an opportunity pay their respects as well. The Rotunda will be open to the public for that purpose from 7:30 p.m. Monday to 7 a.m. Wednesday.