My goal is to die young….as late as possible

I have been watching the services honoring President George H.W. Bush this week, and have been moved by the services and honorariums.

It struck me that President George H.W. Bush, who passed away at the age of 94, really understood that as we age, we can continue to grow and learn and strive to be the very best versions of ourselves.

The 41st President once told his granddaughter, journalist Jenna Bush Hager, “aging’s alright…better than the alternative: not being here.”   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. Those close to him say they expect that he would have jumped for his 95th, too.

Here are some beautiful words I heard from those who loved him, validating that George H.W. Bush accomplished his goal to live a long life and die young!

Memorial from President George W. Bush:

  • “I once heard it said that the idea is to die young as late as possible. … One reason Dad knew how to die young is that he almost did it twice. When he was a teenager a staph infection almost took his life. A few years later, he was alone in the Pacific on a life raft, praying that his rescuers would find him before the enemy did. God answered those prayers — it turned out he had other plans for George H.W. Bush.”
  • “In his 90s, he took great delight when his closest pal James A. Baker smuggled a bottle of Grey Goose vodka into his hospital room. Apparently, it paired well with the steak Baker had delivered from Morton’s.”
  • “He taught us that a day was not meant to be wasted, and he played golf at a legendary pace. I always wondered why he insisted on speed golf — he was a good golfer. Well, here’s my conclusion: He played fast so he could move on to the next event, to enjoy the rest of the day, to expand his enormous energy, to live it all. He was born with just two settings: Full-throttle, then sleep.”

Memorial from Historian Jon Meacham:

  • As vice president, Bush once visited a children’s leukemia ward in Kraków. Thirty-five years before, he and Barbara had lost a daughter, Robin, to the disease. In Kraków, a small boy wanted to greet the American vice president. Learning that the child was sick with cancer that had taken Robin, Bush began to cry.”
  • “To his diary later that day, the vice president said this: ‘My eyes flooded with tears, and behind me was a bank of television cameras. And I thought I can’t turn around. I can’t dissolve because of personal tragedy in the face of the nurses that give of themselves every day. So I stood there looking at this little guy, tears running down my cheek, hoping he wouldn’t see. But if he did, hoping he’d feel that I loved him.'”

Memorial from Senator Alan Simpson:

  • “The most decent and honorable person I ever met was my friend George Bush, one of nature’s noblemen. … Loyalty to his country, loyalty to his family, loyalty to his friends, loyal to the institutions of government and always, always, always a friend to his friends. None of us were ready for this day.”

Guided by Goodness, loyalty Faith and Fun

As I heard these memorials and others, I felt that our 41st president embodies our own Compass mission/values statement –  We strive to be  Guided by goodness, loyalty, faith, and fun.

Thank you Mr.President for being a good role model for us and for future generations to come.  You are a True North Leader and an example of True North Elderhood.


Jean Garboden, Director of Education & Innovation at Compass Senior Living

About the author: Jean Garboden is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit healthcare organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living in Eugene, Oregon. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada

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