President George H.W. Bush's last words were "I love you, too," spoken to his son George W. Bush, according to former Secretary of State James Baker, who was in the room when the 41st president.
On "Face the Nation" Sunday, Baker recalled the "peaceful, gentle" passing of his close friend of almost 60 years he said was like an older brother to him.
"I was the little brother, and I was very, very happy for George H.W. Bush to refer to me as his little brother. And we were extremely close," Baker said.
Baker first met Mr. Bush in 1958 and worked closely with him during his presidential campaign and throughout his presidency as secretary of state and chief of staff.
Baker said he went to visit Mr. Bush in Houston on Friday after "three bad days" for the former president's health.
"I went to check on him after a run and one of the caregivers said, 'Mr. President, Secretary Baker's here,'" Baker said Sunday. "And he looked up at me, opened both eyes looked at me and said, 'Jim, where are we going?' And I said, 'Well, Jefe' — because that's what I called him, 'Jefe,' which is Spanish for 'chief' — I said, 'Well, Jefe, we're going to heaven.' He said, 'That's where I want to go.'"
Mr. Bush's son Neil was there, and the other four Bush children spoke to their father by phone as it became clear the end was near.
"His very last words, the very last words he spoke, were spoken to George W. Bush, President Bush 43, who had told him how much he loved him and that he would see him on the other side. And 41 said, 'I love you, too,'" Baker recalled. "And that was about 40 minutes before he passed away."
Baker said Mr. Bush maintained his sense of humor to the end.
"My wife Susan was there with me, and I, at one point she went over and put her hand on his forehead and she said, 'We love you very much, Jefe,'" Baker recalled. "And he cocked one eye open and he said, 'Well, you better hurry.' So, he was, his sense of humor was intact right up to the very end. His passing was really very peaceful. No struggling, no pain at all."
Mr. Bush will beat the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., this week, and laid to rest at his presidential library in College Station, Texas.