Former President George W. Bush said Thursday that his mother remained feisty and high-spirited the last time he saw her in person, a week before the former first lady passed away. Barbara Bush died Wednesday at age 92.
In an interview for the PBS show In Principle, Bush told Amy Holmes and Michael Gerson, one of his former speechwriters, that his mother teased him when he and his wife, former first lady Laura Bush, visited the family matriarch at her hospital room in Houston earlier this month.
When a doctor stopped by, Bush said his mother asked, “‘Do you want to know why George W. is the way he is, doctor?’” Before the doctor could answer, Bush said his mother replied, “Because I drank and smoke when I was pregnant with him.”
“So I knew she was feeling pretty well,” Bush said, adding, “still feisty, which was a good sign.”
The former president said his mother’s death would be especially hard for his father, former President George H.W. Bush. The couple married in 1945 and spent more than seven decades together.
“At age 93, he’s going to miss mother,” Bush said of his father. “After all, they were married for 73 years.”
The 43rd U.S. president said his father and one of his siblings, Neil Bush, were at Barbara Bush’s bedside when she passed away. Bush said he called his mother earlier Wednesday.
Bush added that his mother leaned on her faith in her final days. “She was comfortable with her passing. She told me point blank, ‘I do not fear death. I know there’s a loving God,’” Bush said.
Well wishes on the passing of Barbara Bush poured in from political leaders after the news of her death spread Wednesday night.
“Our hearts are with the Bush family as we celebrate the life and mourn the loss of Barbara Bush,” First Lady Melania Trump said in a statement. “Throughout her life, she put family and country above all else.”
In a statement, former President Barack Obama called Bush “the rock of a family dedicated to public service.” Former President Bill Clinton tweeted that Bush “showed us what an honest, vibrant, full life looks like. Hillary and I mourn her passing and bless her memory.”
The Bush family is planning to hold a private funeral for the former first lady at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston Saturday, according to the George Bush Presidential Library.
In the interview, George W. Bush also reflected on the advice his mother gave him about serving as president. “‘Keep your eye on the ball. Keep your nose to the grindstone,'” Bush said his mother told him.
Bush added that his parents offered unconditional support during his time in office. “The most important thing they told me was, ‘Son, I love you, and we’re proud of you,’ which is the most important thing any parent can tell a child,” Bush said.
In Principle will air the full interview with former President George W. Bush on Friday.