Three former presidents looked today on at Washington National Cathedral as a fourth eulogised his father George HW Bush.
“To us,” the son said of the father, “his was the brightest of a thousand points of light.”
George W Bush broke down briefly at the end of his eulogy while invoking the daughter his parents lost when she was three and his mother Barbara, who died in April. He took comfort in knowing “Dad is hugging Robin and holding Mom’s hand again”.
For all the sombre tributes to the late president’s public service and strength of character, laughter filled the cathedral time after time.
Mr Bush’s eulogists – son included – noted his tendency to tangle his words and show his goofy side.
But he was “the last great soldier-statesman”, historian Jon Meacham said in his eulogy, “our shield” in dangerous times.
He also noted that Mr Bush, campaigning in a crowd in a department store, once shook hands with a mannequin.
Rather than flushing in embarrassment, he simply cracked: “Never know. Gotta ask.”
After the service, the hearse and a long procession of cars headed for Joint Base Andrews and the flight to Texas – but first down to the National Mall to pass by the Second World War Memorial.
The congregation rose for the arrival of the coffin, accompanied by clergy of faiths from around the world.
In their row together, President Donald Trump and former presidents Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton stood with their spouses and all placed their hands over their hearts.
Mr Meacham also praised Mr Bush’s call to volunteering – his “1,000 points of light”, a phrase coined by the late President in tribute to America’s organisations and clubs – placing it alongside Abraham Lincoln’s call to honour “the better angels of our nature” in the American rhetorical canon.
The national funeral service capped three days of remembrance in Washington before Mr Bush Snr’s remains were returned to Texas for burial today.
Mr Bush Snr, who died on Friday at the age of 94, will lie in repose at St Martin’s Episcopal Church before burial at his family plot on the presidential library grounds at Texas A&M University in College Station. His final resting place will be alongside Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years, and Robin Bush, the daughter they lost to leukaemia in 1953.
A military band played Hail To The Chief as Mr Bush’s coffin was carried down the steps of the US Capitol, where he had laid in state. Family members looked on as servicemen fired off a cannon salute. His hearse was then driven in a motorcade to the cathedral ceremony, slowing in front of the White House.
Mr Bush’s route was lined with people much of the way, in winter hats and taking photos.
On Tuesday soldiers, citizens in wheelchairs and long lines of others on foot wound through the Capitol Rotunda to honour a president whose legacy included World War military service and a landmark law affirming the rights of the disabled.
Former senator Bob Dole, a compatriot in war, peace and political struggle, steadied himself out of his wheelchair and saluted his old friend and one-time rival.
Mr Trump ordered that the federal government close yesterday for a national day of mourning and the US stock markets closed, while flags on public buildings will fly at half-mast for 30 days.