By Carlo Versano
Financial markets closed, mail delivery stopped, federal offices shut down, and bells tolled as the nation paused to remember the life of President George H.W. Bush, who was memorialized during a state funeral at Washington's National Cathedral on Wednesday.
At 11:00 a.m., right on schedule, the famously punctual George W. Bush led his family into the cathedral under cloudy skies and chilly temperatures. In the front pew sat the other four members of what's known as the most exclusive club in the world ー Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and their wives.
It is believed to be the first time Presidents Trump and Obama have met or spoken since the former's inauguration. As Trump sat, he shook the hands of the Obamas as Bill Clinton glanced over. Hillary Clinton stared straight ahead.
The 43rd president delivered a stirring and humorous eulogy for his father, with whom he had a famously complicated but loving relationship. He was joined by Brian Mulroney, the former Canadian prime minister, Alan Simpson, the former senator from Wyoming, and Jon Meacham, the presidential biographer.
Meacham called President Bush the "last great soldier-statesman," and said his famous "thousand points of light" phrase was uttered alongside Lincoln's "better angels of our nature" line from his first inaugural as "companion verses in America's national hymn."
George W. Bush remembered his father as "the brightest of 1,000 points of light," again hitting on a phrase that President Trump once mocked.
"Through our tears, let us know the blessings of knowing and loving you, a great and noble man, the best father a son or daughter could have," Bush said, breaking down.
"Dad is hugging Robin, and holding mom's hand again." Robin was the three-year-old daughter that the Bushes lost to leukemia in 1953.
The Bush family made a surprise visit to the Capitol rotunda on Tuesday evening to thank mourners who paid respects over two days as president lied in state. That followed a touching moment in which former senator Bob Dole was helped out of his wheelchair to salute the casket of his fellow WWII vet.
Bush, who served as the 41st president for a single term at a critical time for geopolitics, led a life that intersected with key moments of modern American history. A naval aviator turned congressman, RNC chair during Watergate, ambassador, CIA chief, vice and finally president, was also the patriarch of a political dynasty, as well as a respected family man and statesman.
"Some have said this is an end of an era," Rev. Russell Jones Levenson said from the pulpit. "But it doesn't have to be. Perhaps this is an invitation to fill the void that has been left behind."