Perhaps his death was George H.W. Bush's final act of service to his country.

The passing of the 41st president came just at the moment when America needed a pause in its intensifying uncivil war, to be drawn back from our bitter and relentless bickering.

And to reflect on the values Bush embodied, characteristics that were once considered a prerequisite for an American leader.

Bush, 94, will be laid to rest today in College Station, Texas. Wednesday's memorial service in Washington's National Cathedral forced us to confront how far we've drifted from the example his life set.

As historian Jon Meacham said in his eulogy, Bush was not a perfect man, but "he left us a more perfect union." He did so by striving for himself, and encouraging his countrymen to never stop seeking, that perfection.

We should ask ourselves, are we doing that today? Or are we consumed only with our divisions? 

Bishop Michael Curry rightly noted that Bush was first an American first, viewing political parties as "a line in the sand to be brushed away" when the common good demanded.

We ache for a time when our leaders, Republican and Democrat, placed the nation ahead of party.

Much has been said these past few days about the character of the man. Listen to the words used to describe him: Humility. Grace. Compassion. Humor. Faith.

Those qualities were not diminished by his rise to power.

Again, that's an example for a nation whose leaders have become distinguished by their egotism, divisiveness and arrogance.

President Bush believed in something larger than himself, and we worry that faith, too, is fast fleeting from our national identity. The call to a higher purpose is a powerful motivator to selfless service.  

Bush came to politics after first serving in the military, placing his life on the line for his country. That was a common experience for his generation of leaders. Too few of today's politicians have made that sacrifice.

The takeaway from this week of remembrance should be that we have done better as a nation, and can do better again. 

America today buries a rare and heroic man in President George H.W. Bush. 

We should not see him as a relic of the past, but rather as an inspiration for what we could be in the future.





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