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Eulogy for John Bush

As the oldest son, my husband was the one to deliver the eulogy for my father-in-law, John Bush.  This is what he shared.

My father passed away this week after a long, brave fight with cancer. He was an amazing father and taught me what it means to be a good man. For those who knew him, but missed the memorial service, his eulogy is copied below. No matter how many books I go on to write, this is the most important thing I’ll ever pen.

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My father was a man. He was a true man.

Not in the way our world defines it now—a swaggering, cocky guy with gym muscles and romantic conquests. Instead, he was the sort of honest, hardworking man who built America up from the wilderness.

He was the type of man we see extolled in the Bible.

C.S. Lewis wrote about this manly ideal in his essay, “The Necessity of Chivalry.”

Chivalry taught that a man should be brave in battle, but in peace be gentle and kind. This sort of true man was independent, protective, and a fighter—but also loving, honorable, good-humored, and faithful.

That was my father. John Bush—the toughest man I ever knew, with the kindest heart.

Before I praise my father, let me emphasize that he wasn’t a saint except in the way that all true Christians are saints. He had plenty of weak points – bull-headedness, moodiness, and a quick temper that moderated with age.

But his virtues far outweighed these weaknesses.

What were those virtues?

First of all, Dad was tough. No one who watched my father work could ever doubt his strength. At 66 he was still slinging furniture around with the strength of a 20-year-old, while standing out in Massachusetts snow storms in a pair of shorts. We all thought he was immortal.

But of course he wasn’t. He worked for years with all sorts of aches and pains, complaining good-naturedly, but never slowing down.

He was also mentally tough. Sometimes, perhaps overly so. . . Once he set his mind to a belief or goal, there was no swaying him. He had grit.

Dad was independent in every sense of the word. He lived within his means, could fix just about anything, and he always wanted to be his own boss.

He was always there to help others, whether with time or money, but he rarely depended on others. Whether it was building a house or repairing a truck, he could do anything. Dad always said he could fix anything except airplanes and electrical work.

Though, he admitted, the only thing he knew about plumbing was that poop flows downhill. (This is a eulogy for John Bush. You knew poop was going to show up in this speech somewhere.)

He spent most of his life working for himself: as a mechanic, a welder, a mushroom farmer, and in several other trades.

But he really loved the open road. He drove during the Golden Age of independent trucker and he loved that independence. It was just him, a trucking dog, and sometimes one of us.

Over the last 20+ years Dad and Mom built up a successful specialty moving business through honest, hard work. “Bush Dependable Delivery” wasn’t just a name – but it also reflected his independent and yet dependable spirit.

Dad was a great protector and provider. Dad worked tirelessly to provide for us and it was literally etched on his body. His right arm was that of a 68-year-old man, while the left was gnarled like a burn victim, after spending three million miles propped up on the window sill of his truck.

As we entered the teen years, he realized we needed him home more. It was a mark of how much he loved the family that he left the open road and became a local driver for Arkansas Best Freight here in Sarasota.

Even with a big family, he provided well for us. After working a full week with plenty of overtime, he would spend Saturdays mowing lawns or servicing tractor trailers for extra money. And he spent little on himself – it was for us. He even named his company J&M Truck Services – for John and Mike.

He protected us, too. Not only from the bad things of the world, but from ourselves as well. He was always there, strong and steady—to back us up or to kick our butts when we did something stupid.

He made Mike, Andrew, and I into the men we are today—and he showed Amanda what a good man is like.

It’s easy to see how Dad exemplified the strong ideals of chivalry, of the Biblical man – toughness, independence, protecting and providing. What about the softer virtues?

He was also honorable, as a man should be. If Dad made a commitment, he always kept it. You knew you could count on him. Honesty was the secret of his business’s success (that and Mom working miracles with the paperwork.) If something was damaged, Dad was always quick to make things right. Customers were willing to wait weeks or months for his services, because they knew he could be trusted.

Dad was loving. He really loved his family and friends. In his earlier years, he showed it most of all through acts of service – doing things for others and working hard for his family. As he got older he was more apt tell you how much he loved you.

Dad was kind-hearted – especially as he matured through the years. You always knew he was glad to see you. Yeats’s old saying applied to him. No one was a stranger to my father – they were just friends he hadn’t met yet. He could meet a fellow in line at the gas station and they would be buddies by the time they reached the cashier.

He was a peacemaker, too. All he wanted in life was for his family to get along, and to love each other, as he loved us.

Some of his kids were difficult teenagers. Well, just me, actually. I was such an angry, mixed-up kid. And he just took it. He just kept on loving me, being a rock against which my anger could break. He never gave up on me.

I entered the Army at 17, because I didn’t know what else to do. He wrote me the kindest, most humble letter while I was in Basic Training. It apologized for his mistakes in raising me, making no mention of my much, much larger sins. It was exactly what I needed. I cried like a baby in front of 50 other GIs, but didn’t care. I realized then exactly how much my father loved me.

Any description of John Bush has to include his sense of humor. Someone once said the key to life was to “Die young as late as possible.” That was my Dad. Even at 68, he still had an ornery, boyish side that loved mischief and a good joke.

Even when racked with cancer, he was always patient and kind, and quick with a joke, enduring the pain and misery with manly good-humor.

He never called anyone by their actual name. As my Uncle Barry said when my father died, “People in heaven are about to get a lot of new nicknames.”

He had a million funny sayings and made-up words. Mom even collected them into a book – “Poop My Dupes – the Wit and Wisdom of John Bush.” To this day I have no idea where his sense of humor came from. Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop Bush were many things, but they weren’t exactly Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. Dad’s humor was all his own.

And it was like a virus. Anyone who spent time with him would end up talking like him. Which is kind of nice. As long as there are people in this world still calling unknown objects a “wigwam for a duck’s butt,” John Bush will never truly be gone.

Lastly, my Dad was a man of faith. This wasn’t as obvious as his other virtues, and it became more evident later in life. But he had genuine faith and trust in Christ. My mother’s faith is incredibly vibrant and dynamic, and I think my Dad sometimes deferred to her on spiritual things because of it.

But his faith was genuine, and we watched it grow over the years. When he prayed publicly, it was no longer with a sheepish tone of voice. He began to actively participate in church, attending men’s Bible study even when cancer had robbed him of energy and strength. Most of all, we saw the true fruit of the Spirit grow in his life.

Mom’s schoolteachers had actively warned her against marrying my ornery, motor-head father. How shocked they would have been to see the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control he developed as the Spirit sanctified him through the years.

We saw his faith in his final days – not only in his lack of fear of death, but in his confident expectation that God awaited him. Twice he told us he was ready to go – God had projects waiting for him in the next life, things to work on.

That was John Bush in a nutshell. The rest of us would focus on release from pain and sickness, or the wedding feast with Christ, or the streets of gold. My Dad wanted to get back to work.

Once Christ returns, we will have a new Heaven and a new Earth. We will have new bodies free from sin and sickness. There will be plenty of work for my Dad to do – good, rewarding work.

Until then, he gets to do something he missed out on in this life – retirement. As we gather here today, Dad is resting from his labors, reunited with lost loved ones and happy in the presence of the Savior.

I know that we’re all hurting today. We all miss him terribly. But we can also be grateful for the many years we had with him, and take comfort knowing that if we share his faith, we will see him again.

In closing, my father was the best man I’ve ever known. He worked hard and sacrificed for his family his entire life, and did it with kindness, humor, and a workingman’s dignity.

His was a life well-lived.

I Have a Soul That Can Never Die

Pop died last night, about 8 pm.

After all of our watching at his bedside for the past nearly two weeks, it still came as a shock. Perhaps it was more of a shock because he was finally sleeping, finally not struggling for every breath, finally we no longer holding our collective breath.

Then. . . while everyone was together, eating shrimp & grits made by Michael and Shelly (who reminded me of Mom and Pop cooking in their kitchen), laughing over stories of Pop, someone called Mom in to Pop’s room. Was he no longer breathing?

The little kids had just left with the big kids and Aunt Sherry to go feed the turtles. They were called back, everyone confused. Was he dead? Was he not?

I called John. He wasn’t home at the moment. I called Johnny who was heading over to see John. They needed to come home.

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“We didn’t feed the turtles because Grandpa died,” said one of the little kids.

I had three of them on the couch with me in the living room while everyone else was at the bedside. We read the last chapter of the Jesus Storybook Bible, all about John’s vision of heaven and the return of Jesus and how this is our story, too, when we believe and are God’s children.

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We all stood together around the hospice bed where his body lay.  How someone can deny the soul once they have seen a dead body is beyond me. Pop was no longer there.

We sang “Amazing Grace.”  My brother-in-law’s first wife was next to me. She was there in support of her children and the parents who still welcomed her in to the family, even after the marriage ended.  She sang clearly the words of every verse.

Then we all prayed together.  Many were too sad (shocked? upset?) to pray aloud.  But my 7yo’s sweet, clear voice earnestly thanked the Lord for Grandpa and asked for us to be comforted. I wish I could remember the words.

 

Q. 18. What did God give Adam and Eve besides bodies?

A. He gave them souls that could never die.

 

Q. 19. Have you a soul as well as a body?

A. Yes; I have a soul that can never die.

 

Q. 20. How do you know that you have a soul?
A. Because the Bible tells me so.

 

From the Catechism for Young Children