Barbara Bush and I were both born in 1925. I was a tenant farmer’s child, and she was a rich girl from Rye, New York. We both learned to read and were passionate about everybody else’s learning to read, and evidently her parents taught her good manners, as did mine.
I have loved the stories of her love affair with George H.W. Bush. He was a young Air force pilot who got shot down and barely escaped dying in the Pacific ocean, but he got back in one piece and married Barbara Pierce, the girl he had loved since he was seventeen and she was sixteen.
They had a big family, and lost a daughter, 4-year-old Robin, early on in their marriage.
The couple left the east coast and settled in Midland, Texas, and then went to Houston. Mrs. Bush moved wherever her husband’s career took them: China, Washington, D.C., and somebody said they lived in 19 different houses. Mrs. Bush seemed to be the “enforcer,” the glue that held the family together. She became the wife of a vice president, the wife of a president, the mother of two governors, and the mother of a president. She and Abigail Adams are the only two women so far who have been the wife of a president and the mother of a president.
Yet Mrs. Bush seemed to be able to be a person who everyone admired. She was a down-to-earth person who did not take herself too seriously. The thought of 93-year-old President Bush holding his beloved wife’s hand all day as she was dying brings a tear of sympathy and appreciation for their 73-year love story.
I watched the funeral, and saw the congregation (and the choir) sing Amazing Grace and Jerusalem. She had asked that the recessional be “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” because she had said she trusted Jesus to save her and that she was going to a better place. The rector spoke encouraging words, and children and grandchildren spoke, as well as one of Barbara’s friends. Occasionally, the camera cut to the daughter, Dorothy, sitting next to her father and giving him loving pats on his back.
One of my Facebook friends , Dr. Glenn Mollette, posted a picture of himself and Mrs. Bush, and explained he was at some meeting where his job was to open with prayer. Mrs. Bush was the main speaker. If she said anything that might seem slightly off color in her speech, she would always look at him and say, “Sorry, Reverend.” I was impressed, because Glenn was once our little pastor at Liberty Baptist church in Johnson County when he was 16 years old and had recently got his driver’s license. A pastor from the middle of Appalachia out there “steppin’ around among the big ‘uns!”
My nephew, Dr. Donald Baxter, who is an orthopedic surgeon in Houston, sent me his Barbara Bush story.
He said when his granddaughter , Marion, was a child, one Easter Sunday he, his wife Frances, Marian and her stepsister got to the church just in time for the service, but they were seated behind a pillar and the children could not see very well. George and Barbara Bush had reserved seats near them. Mrs. Bush asked the girls if they would like to come sit with them so they could see better. They did, and Don said the children did not realize how important the nice elderly lady and gentleman were as they sat between them that Easter morning. I am sure Barbara and George Bush did things like that all their lives, and that is why we all loved them.
I understand that President Bush is in the hospital. I am sure that being nice to all those people was very tiring, but he held up until his love, Barbara was safely laid to rest. I am sure he is ready to go be with her as soon as God is willing.
Our nation was blessed to have the Bushes in leadership. R.I.P., Barbara Bush.
June Rice is a retired teacher from Louisville, Ky.
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