President George H.W. Bush’s death on November 30th of last year has affected me more than I really thought it would. As we neared the close of the 30 day executive order for flags to fly at half-staff in his memory, I was finally at a point where penning this letter seemed like the least I could do. Even in a world as divided as ours, the affects of losing an amazing grandpa truly is universal.
Dear Bush Family,
I am incredibly sorry for your loss. Your father / grandfather has represented “America’s Grandpa” in my opinion, and I share in your deep grief over his loss. I had never met President Bush, but I thank you for sharing him with the world. His death has affected me so deeply, because it reminded me that I too have lost the greatest man I will have ever known.
My grandfather, Billie Earl Mills (or “Papaw” as he was lovingly called), was my hero. Though he never ran a country, or even a company for that matter, he had an incredible impact in the lives around him. He served his country, like your Poppy, and was prideful of being an American veteran. Papaw served in the Coast Guard in WWII in Okinawa and the Philippines. He ended his military career serving on lighthouses in Mississippi, Louisiana, and our great state of Texas. His love of the coast was passed on to me, and I feel closest to him when I visit the Texas Coast with my family. I know you will feel the same every time you now visit Maine.
My grandfather too was the greatest husband anyone could know. He was dedicated to his wife, my grandmother, for 67 years at the time of his passing. He loved her deeply and wanted to spend every moment with her that he could. Their love for one another was so special to me that I chose to share their wedding anniversary when I got married 10 years ago. It was a testament to their great love, and a moment in my life that I have felt immense pride.
Like your Poppy, my Papaw loved to laugh. I can still hear his funny whispery, squeeky laugh in my ears. He too knew how to be a loyal and true friend, and sent others hand written notes frequently. I have kept every single piece of paper that he wrote to me over the years, and I have moments where I sit and read them through tears in my eyes.
He gave himself to others and dedicated himself to his family and his church. His church family was an extension of his own. He was loving towards and accepting of all those who he saw on Sundays. He was supportive and encouraging. He told me every single week that he was praying for me and called me randomly when he read a bible verse that made him think of me.
President George W. Bush, you quoted your father in the eulogy as saying “We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood and town better than he found it.” Well Mr. President, I can assure you that my Papaw did that. He left this world better than when he came into it and instilled a sense of purpose in the generations behind him to do the same. He left behind a legacy of love, of service, of loyalty, of American pride, and of a strong faith in love conquering all.
Bush family – I want you to know that the world is dimmer without 41 in it. And I feel your pain because that very darkness started when my Papaw left me 3 short years ago. I can assure you that my Papaw was at the pearly gates in full salute when your Poppy came strolling in, his path lit by a lighthouse on the coast.