Barbara Bush's pastor fondly remembered the former First Lady in an interview with ABC News on Wednesday. He spoke to the news agency about his role in her life and her deep faith that he witnessed.
"My role is to lift up her faith, which was strong, which was abiding, which was real," Rev. Russell Levenson Jr., the pastor of St. Martin's, told ABC News today.
He says that as 1,500 people, including first lady Melania Trump, fill St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston on Saturday morning, he won't be emphasizing her many worldly accomplishments. Instead, he'll highlight her faith.
"While I was her confidant, it's hard to be a confidant to a woman who had no secrets. There were none," he said. "What you saw is what you got. We had very open conversations about her faith and about her love of God and her love of others, which I think was evident in all that she did."
Levenson also related some of the details of Mrs. Bush's passing. He was present there along with her husband and other family members. She passed peacefully around 6 p.m. on Tuesday at the age of 92.
"It was a lovely, gracious, tender, precious death," he told ABC News. "And we were all ... praying together, we were all with her. The president was holding her hand and we were all saying 'I love you.' And she slipped very gently from this life to the next."
Jean Baker, chief of staff at the Office of George H.W. Bush, shared how the 41st president is holding up after losing his wife of several decades—theirs being the longest marriage between a president and his First Lady.
"He, of course, is broken-hearted to lose his beloved Barbara, his wife of 73 years," Baker said in a statement released late Tuesday night. "He held her hand all day today and was at her side when she left this good earth.
Baker added, "Obviously, this is a very challenging time. But it will not surprise all of you who know and love him, that he also is being stoic and strong, and is being lifted by his large and supportive family. He is determined to be there for them as well. He appreciates all the well wishes and support."
Mrs. Bush will lie in repose at St. Martin's Episcopal Church on Friday. The public is invited to pay their respects from noon to midnight, according to the funeral home. As one of her last wishes, Mrs. Bush asked for a "modest funeral" at the church where she and her husband were members for more than 50 years, added ABC.
"It will be a celebratory service on Saturday," Levenson told ABC News. "We'll be celebrating her life and leading singing, 'Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.' That was her choice as a closing hymn."
First lady Melania Trump will attend the funeral. This continues the tradition of sitting First Ladies attending former first lady's funeral. Michelle Obama attended former first lady Nancy Reagan's funeral in 2016 and Hillary Clinton attended the burial of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in 1994.
Following the service, a funeral procession will take Mrs. Bush to the George H.W. Bush Library Center near Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. There she will be buried in a family plot next to her daughter, Robin, who died of leukemia at the age of 3 in 1953.
Please join us in praying for the Bush family. Former President George H.W. Bush issued a faith-filled statement about his wife's passing.