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Former US President George Bush slipped away as Silent Night was sung



The peaceful final hours of George Herbert Walker Bush have been revealed, after the 41st president’s passed away aged 94 surrounded by family at his home in Houston, Texas. 

James A Baker III, both Bush’s friend and former secretary of state, told the New York Times that Bush had been fading over the last week – spending most of his time sleeping, not eating and never getting out of bed.

Baker said that although the former president had defied death multiple times over the years – struggling with a form of Parkinson’s and being hospitalised with pneumonia several times in recent months – this time felt different.  

Baker stopped by the Bush home on Friday to check on his old friend – or perhaps to say goodbye. 

He said as soon as he entered the room, Bush perked up, asking: ‘Where are we going, Bake?’ 

Baker answered: ‘We’re going to heaven.’ 

‘That’s where I want to go,’ Bush replied.

Within 13 hours, the 94-year-old was on his way.  

Friends and family flocked to Bush’s bedside on Friday evening as it became clear that the end was near.  

Baker’s wife Susan was also there, along with Jean Becker, the former president’s longtime chief of staff; and the Rev Dr Russell Jones Levenson Jr, rector of St Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, and some nurses and doctors. 

Acclaimed Irish tenor Ronan Tynan also asked to pay a visit, during which he sang ‘Silent Night’ while the former president mouthed the words. The singer then performed a Gaelic song. 

Earlier on Friday, when Baker stopped by for a morning visit, he said Bush seemed to be on the rebound as he began eating again, enjoying three five-minute soft-boiled eggs, a bowl of yogurt and two fruit drinks.

‘Everybody thought this is going to be a great day and he’s back and he’s bounced back again,’ Baker told the Times. 

After Bush lost his wife of 73 years, Barbara, in April, he told friends he wasn’t ready to die yet, despite his Parkinson’s taking a severe toll on his ability to walk and speak.  

He spent the summer at his family home in Kennebunkport, Maine, but was ‘somewhat diminished’ when he returned back to Houston in the fall.  

Baker said the pair went out for oysters two weeks ago and ‘things sort of went downhill from there’.  

On Thursday, Baker left at around 9.15am but returned in the evening as he and his wife were on their way to dinner. 

‘He was sitting up in bed and was able to converse with people,’ Baker said.

However, it wasn’t long before they were on their way home from dinner and the Bakers received a phone call urging them to stop back by the house as Bush had ‘slipped considerably’ around 8.15pm. 

Baker held his dear friend’s hand and rubbed his feet while prayers were said and children were called to tell their father goodbye Bush’s hand and rubbed his feet. Prayers were said. The other children were called so they could tell their father goodbye. 

‘If those things could be sweet,’ Baker said, ‘it was sweet.’   

His final conversation was a speaker phone call with his son, George W. Bush, who praised him as a ‘wonderful dad’ and told him that he loved him. 

‘I love you, too,’ the father said – his last words on earth.  

Speaking with the Times in a phone interview on Saturday, Baker said of Bush’s final moments: ‘I can’t even hardly talk about it without welling up. It was as gentle a passing as I think you could ever expect anyone to have. And he was ready.’

In the room at the time of Bush’s death at 10.10pm CST were his son Neil Bush and his wife Maria along with grandchildren Pierce and Marshall Bush.

Former President Barack Obama visited him on Tuesday while in town for an event with Baker, but Bush struggled to get out of bed.

By Thursday, he had stopped eating and was losing weight – but insisted on not going back to the hospital – a place he’d become all too familiar with.  

Granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager shared a pair of touching tributes to her beloved grandfather on Saturday morning, posting two joyful photos of them together on Instagram with the caption: ‘Waking up missing this giant of a man who gave me everything.

‘He taught me and my family about service, family, decency, the power of gentle words and a beautiful heart. I will miss him desperately but so happy he and my Grandmother are back together.’

One photo shows Jenna and her twin Barbara, both 37, flanking their grandfather as they all wear giant grins on their faces. 

The second photo shows a young Jenna standing beside her cousins saluting a Christmas tree as the then-president smiles alongside them.

In a second Instagram post she shared a comic published this morning that showed Bush arriving in heaven via a WWII fighter jet and being greeted by his wife of 73 years Barbara, who passed away eight months ago, and the three-year-old daughter they lost to leukemia in 1953.

A speech bubble above Barbara says: ‘We waited for you.’ 

In the Instagram caption Jenna wrote: ‘This brought me such comfort this morning. I had the opportunity to talk with my grandpa about the afterlife. This is what he said: He answered without any hesitation. “Yes, I think about it. I used to be afraid. I used to be scared of dying. I used to worry about death. But now in some ways I look forward to it.”‘ 

Jenna continued: ‘And I started crying. I managed to choke out, “Well, why? What do you look forward to?” And he said, “Well, when I die I’m going to be reunited with these people that I’ve lost.” And I asked who he hoped to see He replied, ‘I hope I see Robin, and I hope I see [Barbara]. I haven’t yet figured out if it will be Robin as the three-year-old that she was this kind of chubby, vivacious child or if she’ll come as a middle-aged woman, an older woman.

‘And then he said, “I hope she’s the three-year-old.” Robin was the daughter of this giant of a man lost years before to leukemia. The little girl he held tightly, who spoke the phrase I have heard Gampy repeat for my entire life, forever knitting Robin’s voice into the tightly woven fabric of our family: “I love you more than tongue can tell.”

The statement announcing Bush Snr’s passing did not specify the cause of death, but he had long suffered from a form of Parkinson’s disease and had been hospitalized several times for pneumonia and other infections in recent years. Days before his death, Bush Snr was reportedly being treated for low blood pressure.

His eldest son George W Bush, the 43rd president, paid tribute to his father and the head of their political dynasty on behalf of his siblings, saying: ‘Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear Dad has died.

‘George H.W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared for and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens,’ the younger Bush added. 

The White House issued a statement on Saturday confirming that the former president will have a state funeral. 

‘The President and First Lady were notified late last night of President George H.W. Bush’s passing,’ the statement said. ‘President Trump is scheduled to speak with President George W. Bush this morning and offer his condolences on behalf of himself, the First Lady, and the entire country. 

‘A state funeral is being arranged with all of the accompanying support and honors. The President will designate Wednesday, December 5th as a National Day Of Mourning. He and the First Lady will attend the funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.’ 

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