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Six touching moments during George HW Bush’s state funeral

Greg Nash

Thousands of current and former politicians and government officials gathered at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday for the state funeral services for former President George H.W. Bush.

The rare event brought together scores of prominent lawmakers from administrations dating back three decades. The roughly two-hour service was filled with praise for the 41st president’s contributions to the country, and light-hearted moments that were a nod to his sense of humor and love of family.

Here are six emotional highlights from Washington’s farewell to Bush.

George W. Bush breaks down during eulogy for his father

Former President George W. Bush remained composed for nearly his entire eulogy for his father, but broke down at the podium as he concluded his tribute.

{mosads}”We’re going to miss you. Your decency, sincerity and kind soul will stay with us forever,” Bush, the 43rd president, said of his father, the 41st president.

“So through our tears, let us know the blessings of knowing and loving you, a great and noble man, the best father a son or daughter could want,” he added, at which point he lot out a sob and stepped back from the podium.

Bush wrapped up his tribute a few moments later and walked back to the pews as attendees applauded.

As he arrived back at his seat, Bush’s brother, Jeb Bush, reached over to pat George on the arm and offered him a tissue. 

George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush are the second father-son duo to both serve in the White House, joining John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

George W. Bush’s eulogy portrayed his father as a loving family man and a politician who set an example for how to conduct business in Washington, D.C. The tribute was littered with personal anecdotes and light-hearted memories of his father. 

Bush’s granddaughters honor the former president

Much of the focus of Wednesday’s ceremonies was on Bush’s family, and three of the former president’s 14 grandchildren spoke as part of the funeral services.

Lauren Bush Lauren and Ashley Bush, the daughters of Neil Bush, read from scripture in Isaiah at the beginning of the service at the National Cathedral.

Jenna Bush Hager, the daughter of George W. Bush, later delivered a reading from Revelations. 

As she walked back to her seat, Bush Hager reached out and ran her hand along her grandfather’s flag-draped coffin.

All living presidents and first ladies come together

Bush’s state funeral marked a rare instance in which all living presidents and first ladies were in the same room.

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump, former President Obama and Michelle Obama, former President Clinton and Hillary Clinton and former President Carter and Rosalynn Carter sat side-by-side in the front row of the National Cathedral during the service.

Former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush sat on the opposite side of the aisle with the rest of the Bush family.

Every living vice president except Walter Mondale also attended Wednesday’s services.

The Obamas, Clintons and Carters all appeared upbeat and exchanged pleasantries. When the Trumps arrived, the first lady shook hands with the Obamas and Bill Clinton, and waved at the rest of the aisle.

Trump, who has clashed with his predecessors and publicly criticized them, shook hands with the Obamas but did not interact with any of the others. Many of the former presidents in the row have criticized Trump or his policies since he took office.

George W. Bush and Michelle Obama share a laugh

George W. Bush greeted each of the presidents and first ladies in attendance after he’d arrived at the National Cathedral, making his way down the row where the Trumps, the Obamas, the Clintons, and the Carters were seated.

Bush shook hands with the Trumps and with Barack Obama, then leaned over to Michelle Obama and appeared to slip something into her hand. The former first lady laughed as Bush continued shaking hands down the aisle.

Video of the exchange quickly went viral on social media.

The moment was similar to a light-hearted interaction between the two at the funeral for the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in September, when cameras captured Bush passing a cough drop to Michelle Obama.

Laughter in the cathedral over light-hearted memories

Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and presidential biographer Jon Meacham joined George W. Bush in delivering eulogies for George H.W. Bush.

The tributes each touched on the 41st president’s military service during World War II, his domestic and foreign policy accomplishments and his legacy of public service. Each speech also contained humorous anecdotes that cut into the somber mood of the day with laughter.

Bush joked that his father hated vegetables, was a poor dancer and “had a lousy short game” on the golf course.

Meacham, who also eulogized former first lady Barbara Bush earlier this year, recalled George H.W. Bush shaking hands with department store mannequins in New Hampshire on the campaign trail.

“When he realized his mistake, he said, ‘never know. Got to ask,” Meacham said.

Simpson regularly prompted chuckles from attendees. He began his eulogy by joking that the crowd could relax because Bush had told him he had to limit his speech to 10 minutes.

The former senator went on to lament that Bush’s one serious flaw was that “he could never, ever remember a punchline.”

“So the punchline for George Herbert Walker Bush is this: You would’ve wanted him on your side,” Simpson said.

Bush’s final moments recounted

Russell Levenson Jr., the reverend at Bush’s church in Houston, offered the homily for the former president on Wednesday and recounted his final hours before he died.

The reverend described gathering with family members, friends, former colleagues and Secret Service agents at Bush’s home last Friday when the former president was in declining health.  

Levenson recounted how Bush’s former secretary of State and longtime friend James Baker was in attendance, and that he’d rubbed the former president’s feet for a half hour to comfort him.

“There had been wonderful hugs and kind words throughout the day,” Levenson told attendees on Wednesday. “Toward the end, we were sitting on the sofa and [Baker] whispered to me, ‘you know, that man changed my life.’ “

Baker could be spotted in the pews of the cathedral weeping as Levenson spoke.

The reverend said that Bush’s service dog, Sully, was also by Bush’s side last week, and that the canine “has gotten more press than the president in the last few days.”

Levenson repeatedly cited Bush’s commitment to his faith, and commended the former president for his influence on the country and those he knew.

“Some have said in the last few days this is the end of an era,” Levenson said. “But it does not have to be. Perhaps it’s an invitation to fill the hole that has been left behind.”

Tags Barack Obama Bill Clinton Bush funeral Donald Trump George H. W. Bush funeral Hillary Clinton John McCain Melania Trump Michelle Obama

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