Last week George H. W. Bush passed away. I don’t remember much of his presidency but I do remember seeing tanks driving across the desert on TV during the Gulf War (I was in first grade), along with seeing a press conference with the president announcing his opposition to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
Regardless of your political persuasion, one of the most moving parts of his memorial service was hearing George W. Bush eulogize his father. He said some things in his speech that I think every father would like to hear from their sons at their funerals:
Dad taught us how to die well. W said of his father: “As he aged he taught us how to grow with dignity, humor and kindness. When the good lord finally called, how to meet him with courage and with the joy of the promise of what lies ahead.” I was reminded of Psalms 90:12, which says “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” I think part of being a good father is to teach your kids that life is short and we must live it to the fullest, that every day is a gift, and that our future is not guaranteed. Just as GWB remembered his father parachuting at age 90, or racing his boat across the Atlantic Ocean, will we be remembered for our passionate engagement with life? Or will we reach the end of our days full of regrets?
Dad loved people. It stood out to me that W. mentioned his father “could related to people from all walks of life. He was an empathetic man who valued character over pedigree, and he was no cynic. He looked for the good in everyone and he usually found it.” What an important legacy for a son to have a father who loves people! When your sons see the way you treat others, it can be a powerful example for them to follow into adulthood. Perhaps this is one of the greatest things someone can be remembered for. It’s been said that George H. W. Bush wrote thousands of handwritten notes during his presidency. He cared about people. The New Testament says “We love because [God] first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
Dad was humble. "When he lost, he shouldered the blame,” remembered GWB. “He loved to laugh, especially at himself.” He quoted the former president’s inaugural address, in which GHWB said “what do we want the men and women who work with us to say? That we were more driven to succeed than anyone around us or that we stopped to ask if a sick child had gotten better and stayed a moment there to trade a word of friendship.” Paul wrote to the Philippian church “each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped at.” If I am remembered for anything when I die, I want it to be that I was humble. Not in the shallow understanding of humility that usually means being a pushover, but a humility that expresses itself in fully attentive presence with those around me, and accepting my faults and failures with self-grace.
Dad was generous. “He taught us that serving others enriched the giver’s soul.” George W. Bush remembers his father as being a servant of other people. He had an enormous capacity for caring and listening to other people, W recalls. There is no greater example a parent can set for their children than the example of generosity. I love generous people, and am striving to do everything I can continue to grow in generosity to others. The Bible says “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Cheerful givers spread cheer, and what a legacy to be remembered by, that you were generous to all!
Regardless of which side of the political aisle you are on, I think we would all do well to be remembered by our children for such things. #AmIRight?