Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin: I Want to Die Like George H.W. Bush

I disagreed with major aspects of George Bush’s presidency.

I did not admire his political career.

Neither did I admire the way he assessed the US-Israel connection.

It was in 1991, when hundreds of AIPAC members lobbied for $10 million in loan guarantees for Israel – to help build new housing for the wave of Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Bush did not want the money to be used for homes in Jewish settlements in Gaza or the West Bank.

“I heard today there was something like 1,000 lobbyists on the Hill working on the other side of the question. We’ve got one lonely little guy down here doing it,” he told reporters.

(Sidebar: for all those who believe that former President Obama was uniquely hostile to Israel, I submit Bush’s remark as testimony to the fact that the US-Israel has often been complicated).

But, that being said: I did admire his life.

Not all of it, mind you. There were accusations against him — groping women.

But, I liked his soft, homespun manner which belied his New England aristocratic roots.

I admired his sense of humor — the way he chose not to take himself seriously, and played along with Dana Carvey’s SNL caricatures of him, and the way that he even befriended the comedian.

I admired his utter grace in turning the White House over to Bill Clinton. The letter that he wrote to Clinton will go down in history as a testimony to George H.W. Bush’s sheer humanity — one might even say menschlicheit.

At the end of the day — at the end of his life’s days — like all of us, and like every character in the Bible — George Bush was a mixed bag.

But, what I admire the most — what I envy the most — was not his life.

I admire — I envy — his death.

To quote Shakespeare in Macbeth, speaking of the death of the Thane of Cawdor: “Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it.”

First, in his final days, Bush was aware enough to receive the love and tenderness of his entire family. They were either there in person for him, or there long distance.

Whatever else you might think or have thought of his son, President George W. Bush, there is nothing quite as poignant as a 72 year old man telling his dying 94 year old father that he was a wonderful dad, and hearing his father’s last words to him: “I love you, too.”

I want to die that way.

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Source: Religion News Service