The man I simply called "Gampy" was known to the world as George Herbert Walker Bush. And he was the most gracious, most decent and most humble man I will ever know. In fact, he would tell you how blessed he was and how thankful he was for each blessing.
My grandfather was thankful for his family.
He would wake up about 5 a.m. to review security briefings and grab his first coffee of the day. When the coast was clear, all of the grandkids would do our best to snag a spot on his bed with Ganny, while they read the paper.
We all grew up in awe of our grandfather — a larger-than-life figure fly-fishing off the rocks in Maine. He would be the first to host intense horseshoe matchups between family and secret service, or any willing head of state, while encouraging trash talk like "power outage" if you were short on your throw, or "Woodrow Wilson" if you were long. His typical spread included barbecue, tacos or pork rinds with hot sauce — of course with a healthy dose of Blue Bell ice cream. Always the competitor, each night closed with Gampy challenging us to the coveted "first asleep" award.
In classic Gampy fashion, he would write letters of encouragement — whether one of us had a hard semester at school, one of us (not me) drove his boat Fidelity into the rocks, or one of us (definitely not me) ended up in Ganny's crosshairs.
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At the close of one summer, after he had left public service, Gampy wrote an email to all of us:
The only thing wrong with the last five months is that none of you were here enough. Next year, promise this old gampster that you will spend more time with us here by the sea. As you know, I have had to give up fly-fishing off the rocks, but there is plenty left to do — plenty of wonderful things. I think of all of you an awful lot. I just wonder how each of you is doing — in life, in college, in school. If you need me, I am here for you, because I love you very much.
In Psalm 91:16, God makes this promise: "With long life, I will satisfy him and show him my salvation." Today, we know that Gampy did enjoy a long life, and we know he is enjoying the beginning of his next life with my Ganny and his beloved Robin.
He was thankful to serve
My grandfather was thankful for his country.
My grandfather was grateful to lead a country where people can go as far, and as fast, as their dreams can take them; a country that celebrates individuals alone or working together to improve the condition of their fellow man on a voluntary basis — an initiative he would later describe as a "thousand points of light."
He often spoke about the timeless creed of "duty, honor, country" that has sustained the republic for more than 240 years.
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But this wasn't something he just talked about ... it was something he lived. He flew 58 combat missions in the Pacific, was shot down and rescued at sea. Yet he never saw his own heroism as being any greater than anyone else's. I know this because I experienced it personally. Gampy was so proud when my cousin Walker joined the Marines and I joined the Navy, and he was even prouder when we served overseas. In no way did our service compare with his, yet we could never convince him of that.
In our times together, our big, wonderful and competitive family saw his personal goodness that led to his historical greatness. He left a simple yet profound legacy to his children and grandchildren and to our great country — service to others. When the last word on George H.W. Bush is written, it will almost certainly be this: The fulfillment of a complete life cannot be achieved without service to others.
He was thankful to God
Finally, my grandfather was thankful for his God.
Gampy once said: "God is good, but his love has a cost: We must be good to one another." It was his faith and his love for others that drove him, that fulfilled him, and that led him to a calling in public life.
Toward the end of his service as president, at a prayer breakfast here in Houston, he reflected on his time aboard the submarine USS Finback after being shot down during World War II — he went up topside one night on the deck, stood watch and looked out at the dark. He said: "The sky was clear; the stars were brilliant like a blizzard of fireflies in the night. There was a calm inner peace. Halfway around the world in a war zone, there was a calm inner peace: God's therapy."
Today, after 94 years, the heavy hand of time has claimed the life of my Gamps. But in death, as in life, my grandfather has won — for he has exchanged his earthly burdens for a heavenly home and is at peace.
Yes, the man I simply called Gampy was the most gracious, most decent and most humble man I will ever know. And it's the honor of a lifetime to share his name.
God bless you, Gampy. Until we meet again.
George P. Bush serves as the Texas Land Commissioner and is the oldest grandson of former President George H.W. Bush. You can follow him on Twitter: @georgepbush.
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This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: George P. Bush's tribute to his grandfather: The man I simply called 'Gampy'