As people around the world honor and pay tribute to the late President George H.W. Bush, who died on November 30, 2018, at the age of 94, Growing Bolder is paying special attention to the ways in which he helped smash stereotypes and contributed to Rebranding Aging®.
The 41st President once told his grandaughter, journalist Jenna Bush Hager, “aging’s alright…better than the alternative: not being here.”
And he noted that he had no interest in leaving a legacy. He felt it was more important to live every day to the fullest, to do the best you can with the information you have, and to take leaps of faith.
Sometimes, those leaps were literal! President Bush made eight skydives in his life, including jumps on his 80th, 85th and 90th birthdays.
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott, a former member of the Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team, jumped with President Bush on those last two dives, and says he fully anticipated jumping again, on 41’s 95th birthday, had he lived long enough:
“I know he said he wanted to jump on his 95th birthday. I was hoping he’d live to jump on his 95th, but, he’s left a lot of great memories for me. He was just a great American icon, and, to me, a superman,” Elliott said.
Unlike other past presidents, George H.W. Bush did not write a memoir, but he did keep a diary, going back to when he was 18. He also sent his family a series of letters over the last few decades (he had 17 grand-children, and six children, including former President George W. Bush, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, author Dorothy Bush Koch, businessmen Neil and Marvin Bush, and Robin, who died at age 3 of leukemia).
Bush’s presidential library has been releasing excerpts from some of those letters:
From the time he entered the Navy at age 18, #Bush41 kept a diary that he continued for the next 57 years. We’ll be releasing a video series with excerpts from his diary and letters based on his book “All the Best.” This reflection on aging is from September 1998. #Remembering41 pic.twitter.com/l23A5dv0qo
— Bush Foundation (@Bush41) December 1, 2018
In one letter, President Bush made light of the fact that he was getting more emotional as he got older, and shared his thoughts about living a happy life:
“If I shed tears easier now, try not to laugh at me, because I’ll lose more saline and that makes me feel like a sissy,” Bush wrote. “And besides, it’s okay to cry if you’re a man, a happy man, me. All Bushes cry easily when we’re happy or counting our blessings or sad.”
And in another, he reflected on the changes that age had on his mind and body:
“I don’t expect to be on the A team any more, but I want to play golf with you. And I want to fish or throw shoes. And I want to rejoice in your victories be they political, or business, or family happiness.”
After the death of his beloved wife Barbara, in April of 2018, President Bush released a statement that said:
“We have faith she is in heaven, and we know life will go on — as she would have it. So cross the Bushes off your worry list.”
And he told his grand-daughter that he was looking forward to seeing his loved ones in heaven.