The biggest lessons Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush learned from their grandparents’ devoted 73-year marriage came from everyday interactions and observations. The former first daughters appeared on the Today show Wednesday, December 5, to discuss their late grandfather and his legacy, particularly his enduring love story with their grandmother, who passed away this spring.
“I think we’re both heartbroken,” said Barbara, who recently married at the Bush Compound in Maine. “We, of course, expected our grandfather to pass away soon—he was 94—and yet it came as such a shock. And we miss him already very much because he really was the center of our family. And yet, I think I also get a lot of joy knowing that he’s with our grandmother now.”
Following Barbara Bush’s death in April, the 41st President of the United States of America was “reflective,” according to his granddaughters.
“I asked him if his heart was broken and he said, ‘Yes,’” Barbara recalled. “And then he looked at me and he said, ‘Do you think it will feel worse than this?’ And it just, really got me. Of course his heart was broken. He had lost the love of his life.”
The couple met in their teenage years at a Christmas dance in Connecticut. “Since I didn’t waltz, we sat the dance out,” George recalled in his autobiography. “And several more after that, talking and getting to know each other. It was a storybook meeting.”
They married in January 1945, after a courtship that spanned World War II. For the next 73 years, the couple spent every Christmas together, prompting family members to cherish the memories of this particular holiday at this time of year.
“When he passed away, I said to [my husband Henry Hager]—and I didn’t think [our girls] could hear me—‘I can’t believe this is happening right before Christmas,’” Jenna said on the Today show Wednesday. “And Mila said, ‘Well of course it’s happening right before Christmas. Gampy had to get to Ganny so they could decorate their Christmas tree.’“
“They had never spent a Christmas apart in their whole 73 years, 74 years,” she added. “So of course he wanted to be there. And she probably was like, ‘Come on, time to come home.’“
On Friday, George H.W. Bush passed away at age 94. On Wednesday, his eldest son, former President George W. Bush, delivered a eulogy as his father was laid to rest. “Every day of his 73 years of marriage, dad taught us all what it means to be a great husband,” he said. “He was dedicated to her totally.”
He added, “[He was] the best man a son or daughter could have… And in our grief, let us know that dad is hugging [our late sister Robin] and holding mom’s hand again.”
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