It was one of the most beautiful funerals I’ve ever seen. By the time it was over, I was wiping tears from both eyes. I’m talking, of course, of the celebratory homecoming of Barbara Bush, dubbed “the first lady of the greatest generation” by historian Jon Meacham in his inspiring eulogy. Held at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, where the Bushes have been active members for half a century, the service encapsulated all that is good about America. Let’s review five highlights of this awesome service.
1. President Bush’s socks
The former president ordered a pair of crazy looking socks – his trademark – covered with images of books, from John’s Crazy Socks store. The point, of course, was to honor Mrs. Bush’s commitment to literacy. After the service, Mr. Bush donated the socks to a young fan of his presidency – a man with Down Syndrome.
2. Granddaughters’ Bible reading
Six grandchildren – all women – each read a passage from Proverbs 31, which begins with, “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband too, and he praises her. Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” This was a fitting tribute for the only First Lady in American history to be married for 73 years.
3. President Bush at the casket
The day before the service, 8,000 Houstonians filed by the casket at the front of St. Martin’s sanctuary. In typical Bush form, the former president sat there for an hour, in his wheelchair, to greet well-wishers. But first, he had his time alone, before the casket. It was an image of devotion and grace that will not be forgotten.
4. Jeb Bush’s eulogy
The former Governor of Florida became emotional as he talked about his mom. He said, “We learned to be genuine and authentic by the best role model in the world.” Jeb then spoke of the woman who ran the family that ran the country in terms that clearly moved the hearts of the 1,500 invited guests.
5. Barbara’s personal faith
Jeb described the faith of his mother. He said that during his final visit with Barbara, he asked about her feelings about facing death. She said, “Jeb, I believe in Jesus and he is my Savior. I don’t want to leave your dad, but I know I’ll be in a beautiful place.” The family pastor, Rev. Russell J. Levenson, Jr, confirmed Barbara’s amazing faith. The rector at St. Martin’s told of her confirmation at the age of 90, as well as his private conversation with her three days before her death. “Clearly, she was ready,” said Levenson.