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What Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush Learned From Their Grandparents’ Marriage

barbara bush jennaWASHINGTON, DC - MAY 31: Former first lady Barbara Bush (C) and granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager (R), daughter of former President George H.W. Bush, leave after the unveiling of former President Bush's offical portrait in the East Room of the White House May 31, 2012 in Washington, DC. Commissioned by the White House Historical Association, the portraits of Bush and former first lady Laura Bush will hang in the White House next to portraits of the other past presidents. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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.”

HOUSTON, TX – FEBRUARY 05: President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush arrive for the coin toss prior to Super Bowl 51 between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

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.’“

george barbara bush wedding

Navy Lieutenant George Bush and Barbara Pierce get married in the First Prsbyterian Church in Rye, New York on January 6, 1945. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

“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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About the Author

Esther Lee
Esther Lee
Esther is the Senior News Editor at The Knot. A self-proclaimed pop culture enthusiast, she appreciates a good celebrity interview just as much as she adores Nancy Meyers movies. You can find her kicking off her mornings with barre and a green juice, traveling and exploring new cultures, and rapidly scrolling her feed for the latest and greatest news. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @theestherlee.