‘Hey, Bake, where we going today?’ James Baker shares final moments with Bush: ‘We’re going to heaven’

Former Secretary of State James Baker, who served under President George H.W. Bush, said his close friend maintained his spirit until the very end.

Baker described Bush’s last day as “a pretty sweet day” in an appearance on CNN, saying his passing “was very gentle and very peaceful,” though he acknowledged that Bush’s health had been in decline for some time.

“But it never really affected his spirit,” Baker said. “In fact, he said after Barbara died that he wasn’t ready to go. He used to kid about wanting to live to be 100.”

Baker, who also served as Bush’s chief of staff, shared a touching anecdote from the morning of the former president’s passing.

“When I showed up at 7:00 in the morning, one of the aides who assisted him physically said, Mr. President, Secretary Baker’s here,” Baker told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “He opened both eyes, looked at me and said, ‘Hey, Bake, where are we going today?”

“And I said well, Jefe, we’re going to heaven,” he continued, using the Spanish term for boss. “He said, ‘Good, that’s where I want to go.’ Little did I know, or did he know, of course, that by 10:00 that night he would be in heaven.”

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

For a man who fought for his country and dedicated his life to serving his country, his passing was as gentle as could be hoped for, according to Baker.

“But that last day was really a very, very gentle and peaceful passing for him,” he told Tapper. “He had not gotten out of bed for three or four days — I live close by his home here in Houston, and I went over there at 7:15 on Friday morning, expecting to see him sleeping, but he was alert, more alert than he had been in four or five days.”

Baker said they had “a wonderful two-hour visit” and that Bush ate a big breakfast.

“He hadn’t been eating much,” he said. “And we all began to think here we are, he’s going to surprise us again. It’s another bounce back day.”

But it wasn’t to be.

“We went over there again later in the evening,” Baker explained. “My wife and I were going out to dinner around 6:00, and he was not in quite as good shape. We went out to dinner and on our way home they called us and said you better come on over. And we went there, got there about 8:15 and he passed away at 10:10.”


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Tom Tillison


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