(The following column is excerpted from the eulogy that Peter Bush gave at the funeral Mass for his father, John L. “Jack” Bush on Sept. 4 at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Bettendorf.)
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Peter Bush; I’m number six of the seven children from the family of Jack and Pat Bush. If my dad ever introduced us, I am “the wrestler.” My brother, Larry, was “the football player,” Joe, “the engineer,” Greg, “the pilot,” and Tom, “the salesman.” My sisters had labels as well. My sister Barb was “the swimmer” and Mary was “the cheerleader.” Later on, my sisters’ labels changed to, most appropriately, “the nurses.” My mom even had a name. Dad affectionately called her “Princess.”
Now, if Dad was going to hand out labels to his kids, then we certainly would give him one. All the kids decided to call him “the big guy.” His label was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. You see, our dad was the most humble and unpretentious man on the face of this earth. My dad, “the big guy,” would treat everybody else like they were the “big guy.” Dad made others feel like they were the most important person in the room. My father liked to give out compliments, not receive them. I think, judging by this huge crowd here today, you all know what I’m talking about. My dad used to say, “The world is made of givers and takers.” Our dad was the “the champion of givers.” Oh, my dad took sometimes. He had a saying, “Waste not, want not,” and he practiced that saying very well. Our family would be out for dinner and when we would leave the restaurant he would take bread, butter, salt, pepper, straws and whatever he viewed as part of the deal.
He honestly would not let the waitress take a glass off the table if it was full of ice. He was afraid the ice would be wasted. One thing dad hated to see, oh, let me rephrase that, he didn’t like the word hate. It was too negative. The one thing my father strongly disliked was anything wasted, especially talent.
Our father believed God blessed everyone with certain diverse abilities and talents and if you didn’t exercise those gifts it was not only a crying shame, but a sin as well. You see, our dad had an enormous appreciation for people. His faith in people was unwavering. My dad had a gift for meeting a complete stranger and creating a friend within a five-minute conversation. The only problem with the five minutes, it was too short. That newest friend wanted to spend more time with my dad. In the entertainment industry that’s called leaving on a high note. Most everyone who spoke to my dad wanted more time with him. He always spoke from his heart. His genuine way is a quality you don’t find in many people today. In this cynical and jaded world we live in, my father didn’t have the ability to “go negative.” Not once in my life did I hear him say an unkind word towards or about anyone.
What our dad managed to do throughout his life was create love. Love for not only his family, but the waitress who served him, the workers he employed, the athletes he watched, the Assumption and Notre Dame family, the nurses and doctors who took care of him and, most importantly, his Catholic faith.
My father has been preparing his whole life for this moment. Yes, that’s right. He’s lived his whole life consumed by one thought, making sure he gets to heaven. Actually, two thoughts: working towards getting himself and his family to heaven.
When I was young, I asked my father how one goes about preparing for heaven. My dad said, “It’s not complicated, just do the right things.” I remember asking him what if I didn’t know what the right things were. He looked at me, smiled and said, “the answer is in your gut,” then followed up with, “people know the difference between right and wrong; what people have trouble with is following through with doing the right things.
It’s the road less traveled.
“If you have the courage to make the right decisions, not only will you have a fulfilling life, but most importantly, eternal life will be waiting for you when your time is up.”
That conversation has stayed with me my whole life. “Do the right thing” was my father’s mantra to the end. It’s the way my dad lived his life for 79 years. It didn’t matter what part of life you were talking about, my dad’s “life model” translates for every facet of life: business, social, religion or relationships. It applies to all things and it starts with treating people right.
During the tail end of Dad’s life he was concerned with the dehumanizing way the world is becoming: computers and phones instead of face-to-face meetings, texting instead of talking on the phone, listening to iPods instead of talking to your parents, watching a movie in the car instead of conversing. Dad understood the importance of technology, when used properly. What frightened him was the deemphasizing of human interaction that is going on in the world today.
My father, John Bush, has been richly rewarded for his hard work and dedication. His goodness couldn’t be measured, his love was unparalleled, his respect for others was constant, his integrity was beyond reproach and his ability to love and forgive others is the gold standard for life.
Now that my father is physically gone, we are all at “damage control.” This plain truth is, my family is less kind, the Quad-Cities is less friendly, and the world is not as good as it was a week ago. I would like to challenge the Bush family and all of you here today to be kinder, more patient, gentler, more sincere, more generous, more gracious and, most importantly, to pray more. My father did all of these things every day of his life, and for that reason, with my family’s approval, I feel we need to change my father’s label — it will no longer be “the big guy.” Today and forever you will always be known as “our hero.”