The sad news came on Tuesday while I was having dinner with a friend. A noble life of purpose was over.
I had passed at 92 years old.
Naturally, the conversation on the table revolved around this remarkable woman. At the end of the afternoon, an email arrived: an invitation to the Celebration and Thanksgiving Service on Saturday at 11. Are you coming? The reflected missive
personality: prepared, fast, direct and thoughtful.
The email also had a picture of Mrs. Bush: gray hair, curly and welcoming eyes, the soft smile that indicated kindness and great joy, and pearls, three lines, elegant but sober. I could almost hear her explaining the quick notice: Well, of course. People are busy and we want our friends to know so they can come if they can. It is the right thing to do.
When we think of the Greatest Generation, martial virtues often come to mind: young men in an unimaginably violent struggle, saving the civilized world. Men like
George H.W. Bush,
who joined the Navy on his 18th birthday to serve as a pilot of torpedo bombers and then was shot down in the Pacific.
But there was another, no less admirable, part of that generation, personified by Mrs. Bush. The two met at a Christmas party, she 16 with a green and red party dress and he a year older. Since he could not dance the waltz, they sat, talked and fell in love.
Strong, intelligent and outspoken, Mrs. Bush was her husband's indispensable companion when the war ended and it was time for life to start again. Everything he achieved in his extraordinary life together was possible only because of his wisdom, his incessant love, his candor and his solid values.
Their loyalty produced the best in all those around them. I met Mrs. Bush when she was 22 years old and worked for her husband, then president of the Republican National Committee. Decades later, working hard for her son in the White House, I was still nervous if I felt like I was giving my best.
Long before she said, as first lady: "What happens in your house is more important than what happens in the White House," Mrs. Bush focused on what was happening in her house. The children she raised are testimony of a mother who taught respect, integrity, hard work and faith and gave her unconditional love.
For Mrs. Bush, the right thing always involved serving others. Its most visible cause was literacy. She inspired millions to provide a window into a larger world of imagination, knowledge and beauty by helping someone learn to read.
There was another cause, more private at first because it was deeply personal. After losing her first daughter, Robin, to leukemia at the age of 3, a wound handled gracefully but never fully recovered, the Bushs made defeating cancer a central focus of their lives.
A memory: as first lady in 1989, she visited a hospital and cradled a baby with AIDS in her arms. It may not seem like much now, but at the time, some people mistakenly thought that the deadly disease was transmitted by contact. Does not matter; She saw a child of God who needed to be supported and comforted.
On her death, no person has suffered a greater loss than her husband. Bush men have a way of marrying formidable women. That was the case with President Bush's father 41,
Sen. Prescott Bush
: When his wife and the mother of 41,
Dorothy Walker Bush,
died in 1992, the then president wrote to his brother Jonathan to thank him for a tribute he had done at the funeral, saying: "Our compass is spinning a bit."
Today in Houston, George H.W. Bush's compass is spinning a lot. He has lost the love of his life and his wife of 73 years. May the God of tender mercies bless and comfort him, the remarkable children he and his wife brought into this world, and the many grandchildren whom they loved and enjoyed so deeply.
I suspect that there will be a great heavenly welcome party: friends, admirers and family, eager to greet her when she arrives. Robin will be the first in line. I also have a hunch that there is some uneasiness among the divine authorities and a long line outside the heavenly cleansers of an hour. Robes and wings should be pressed. After all,
Barbara Pierce Bush
is coming. Everyone wants to make the best impression. She deserves it. It's the right thing to do. Requiescat in pace .
Mr. Rove helped organize the American Crossroads political action committee and is the author of "The Triumph of
"(Simon & Schuster, 2015).
Appeared in the print edition of April 19, 2018.