Former first lady Barbara Bush was remembered by family and friends as a symbol of authenticity and grace during a private funeral Saturday in Houston, where more than 1,000 guests were in attendance, including four former presidents and three former first ladies, as well as the current first lady.
Mourners gathered at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston to celebrate the life of the matriarch of the Bush family, who was the wife of a president and the mother of another. She died Tuesday at 92.[Barbara Bush, matriarch of American political dynasty, dies at 92]
Jeb Bush delivered the eulogy on behalf of the family, opening with a joke that he felt his mother’s “looming presence” behind him, telling him to “keep it short” and not to “get weepy.” He recalled decades of laughter and lessons with his mother.
“She was our teacher and role model on how to live a life of purpose and meaning,” he said.
Jeb Bush, a former governor of Florida, emphasized his mother’s humor, authenticity and strong will. “She called her style a benevolent dictatorship, but honestly it wasn’t always benevolent,” he said, to big laughs from the guests.
Jon Meacham, who wrote a biography of Bush’s husband, former president George H.W. Bush, delivered another tribute. “Barbara Bush was the first lady of the greatest generation,” he said, describing her as a “point of light.” Reflecting the celebratory spirit of the ceremony, Meacham drew roaring laughter from the guests, relaying self-deprecating anecdotes about Bush’s preference for another author, John Grisham, and her tendency to lovingly prod her children.
Bush’s husband, who was in a wheelchair, and her oldest son, former president George W. Bush, sat at the front of the church, along with former first lady Laura Bush. Bush’s only living daughter, Dorothy Bush Koch, could be seen with her arm around her father.
Several dignitaries and public figures were in attendance, including former president Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, and former president Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, who were seated next to first lady Melania Trump in the front row.
Not in attendance at the Saturday service was President Trump, who wanted to “avoid disruptions” out of respect for the Bush family, the White House said. Former president Jimmy Carter also was not in attendance; he was caring for his wife, Rosalynn Carter, who is recovering from surgery, he said in a statement.