I found myself drawn to watching the recent tributes for former President George H. W. Bush. I responded strongly to the salutes from those who served with him, many now in their twilight years, and the recounting of his own military service. I appreciated anew the recap of historical events under his leadership. Seeing the presidents and first ladies who followed him sitting front and center in the church and the powerful political figures and writers who spoke of his contributions, was impressive. The glowing admiration and deep affection from family members was tremendously moving and heartwarming.
If I had to say what touched me the most, though, it would have to be that President Bush seemed to know how to love well. In relationships he gave his whole self, was genuine, and down to earth. One person after another–whether friend, someone in the political arena, or family member, spoke of his loyalty, warmth, connectivity, humor, initiative, affirmation, forgiveness and grace. His letters, many handwritten and deeply intimate, illustrate these characteristics. The recipients had a sense that they were important to him, that they mattered in his life. It was mentioned that every one of his grandchildren believed they were his favorite. What an accomplishment, to convey to each impressionable young person that they were so special and greatly valued. When people disappointed him, President Bush had a pattern of forgiving and showing grace. He often reached out to affirm someone who had made an error in judgment, letting them know he was still there for him or her. Perhaps most challenging of all, he owned up to his mistakes and apologized when necessary. He truly seemed to operate from the perspective that he was here to serve, not just the country, but every person God brought his way.
President George H. W. Bush was a relational role model, something much needed in our current culture. Perhaps that is, in part, what held us captive to the numerous broadcasts. Too often loving, respecting, investing in, and putting others first is low on the hierarchy of what matters most in life. When I leave this earth, I hope those who knew me well will feel a loss—not because I did anything great, but because someone who loved them well would be away for just a while and be missed. Love is expensive, it costs us a lot, but the return on investment sure seems worth it, if what I watched this week is any indication.