HOUSTON — Former President George W. Bush said Wednesday that his mother, Barbara Bush, didn’t fear death because she believed in an afterlife and that she would be “wonderfully received in the arms of a loving God.”
Barbara Bush, who died Tuesday at age 92 at her home in Houston, was “warm and wonderful, until you got out of line,” her son added while appearing with his wife, Laura Bush, on the Fox Business Network. Other relatives also described her as the family “enforcer” while her husband, former President George H.W. Bush, pursued careers in the Texas oil business and, later, politics and public service.
Tributes rolled in from around the world, heralding the former first lady as a warm woman of strength devoted to not only her family, but to child and adult literacy programs.
Current first lady Melania Trump, who will attend Barbara Bush’s funeral Saturday in Houston, praised her for putting “family and country above all else.” Among her greatest achievements, President Donald Trump added in a statement, “was recognizing the importance of literacy as a fundamental family value that requires nurturing and protection.”
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, whose last years in office overlapped the George H.W. Bush presidency, remembered Barbara Bush as warm and astute, saying he was “greatly saddened” by her death. Gorbachev visited with the Bushes at the former president’s library at Texas A&M University, where Barbara Bush will be buried.
“Barbara did a lot to build trust and friendship between us. She immediately developed a warm relationship with Raisa (Gorbachev’s wife), they communicated easily and at ease,” Gorbachev said.
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram to the former president offering his condolences.
In Kuwait, the Arab nation that has long celebrated George H.W. Bush for securing its freedom from Iraqi occupation in the 1991 Gulf War, the state-run news agency KUNA reported that Kuwaiti leader Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah sent letters of condolence to the Bush family. Barbara Bush visited Kuwait in 1993 and 2001, and was warmly received by dignitaries and Kuwaiti women.
Former President Barack Obama said he and former first lady Michelle Obama would always be grateful to Barbara Bush “for the generosity she showed to us throughout our time in the White House.”
“But we’re even more grateful for the way she lived her life — as a testament to the fact that public service is an important and noble calling; as an example of the humility and decency that reflects the very best of the American spirit,” Obama said.
Former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter called Mrs. Bush the “matriarch of a family dedicated to serving.”
Barbara Bush’s funeral will be held at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, which she and her husband regularly attended. Barricades were erected Wednesday, and police were stationed outside a funeral home near the church. The church will host a public viewing Friday. Saturday’s funeral will be by invitation only.
An “uplifting celebration” of Barbara Bush’s life will be held Thursday evening outside Houston City Hall. City officials encouraged people to wear blue, her favorite color, along with pearls, which became her signature neckwear jewelry. City Hall was being bathed in blue lights in her honor.
George H.W. Bush was at his wife’s side when she died and had held her hand all day Tuesday, according to Jean Becker, chief of staff at the former president’s office in Houston. They’d been married 73 years, more than any presidential couple.