Former First Lady Barbara Bush passed away on April 17. She was 92. Today, we reflect on her inspiring life and the faith that drove it.
From a little girl growing up in New York to the First Lady of the United States, the amazing and inspiring life of Barbara Bush was filled with years of grace, wit, wisdom, and great influence. She was one of the most respected and beloved women of our nation, championing the cause of literacy, the importance of family and relationships, and the simple ingredient that makes life better for all – a good sense of humor.
Here are 10 things you may not know about Barbara Bush, that reveal her inspiring life, sense of humor, faith, and devotion to God and family:
Barbara Bush's Roots and Her Marriage to George H. Bush
Barbara Bush was born on June 8th, 1925 in New York City as Barbara Pierce. Her mother, Pauline Pierce, was the daughter of an Ohio Supreme Court Justice, and her dad, Marvin Pierce, was a distant relative of former President Franklin Pierce, 14th President of the United States.
She grew up in an Episcopalian family in Rye, New York. Mrs. Bush is known to have loved reading and athletics while growing up, and always has had a quick wit and sense of humor. She met her soon to be husband George at a dance while home from school on Christmas break. She was 16, he was 17. Committed to a long-distance relationship after George joined the military as the US Navy’s youngest combat pilot in WW II, and then later, after facing a near fatal accident when his plane was hit during a bombing run, the couple decided to marry. They were married for 73 years.
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Her Compassion and Courage Were on Display through Heartbreak and Loss
George and Barbara Bush had 6 children: George, Pauline nicknamed “Robin,” Jeb, Neil, Marvin, and Dorothy. Their daughter Robin sadly died of leukemia when only 3 yrs. old, just after Jeb was born. As any parent who has lost a child can understand, they were devastated. The Bush’s also have 14 grandchildren, and are a very strong, committed family. After living many places through the years, including of course, the White House, Mr. and Mrs. Bush made their home in Houston, Texas and enjoyed spending summers in Kennebunkport, Maine.
In 1949, Barbara’s parents were involved in a car accident in which her mother was killed instantly. Because she was pregnant at the time, she was advised not to travel to the funeral in California. Mrs. Bush was open about how this event left a lasting scar on her life.
The trauma of dealing with the death of both her mother and precious daughter caused her reddish-brown hair to turn prematurely white. But as everyone saw throughout the years, Barbara Bush just owned that look. She has always been classy, courageous, and real.
Through a few difficult years, as children were growing up, Mrs. Bush battled through times of depression. This gave her the compassion and understanding to better shine light on the importance of mental health issues in our nation.
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Her Legacy: A Champion of Literacy and Dearly Loved Mother and Wife
Barbara Bush was a life long advocate and champion of literacy. She started her own literacy organization, the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, which promotes the importance of literacy and supports organizations that teach reading skills to parents and kids. She strongly believed in the power of reading, as well as the importance of parenting and time together as a family. After watching one of her sons struggle with dyslexia, she was compelled and inspired to give her all to the cause of literacy. It’s been reported that together, former President George Bush and Mrs. Bush have raised more than a billion dollars for charity since leaving public office.
Her family called her “The Enforcer,” a nickname lovingly given to Mrs. Bush by her son, former President George W. Bush. She was a fighter by nature and those who love her most leaned on her strength, wisdom, and wit for many years.
Barbara Bush is only one of two women who have been both wife and mother to a president of the United States. (The other was from 200 years before, First Lady Abigail Adams, wife of President John Adams and mother to President John Quincy Adams.)
The same year Mrs. Bush moved to the White House, she was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes thyroid dysfunction, and leads to symptoms such as red, puffy eyes. She dealt with this for many years and was treated with radiation to help lessen the effects of the disease. Other conditions she has battled in recent years is congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Here are fifteen quotes from the former first lady to enjoy and reflect on:
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Barbara Bush Knew What Mattered Most
1. “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.”
2. "Some people give time, some money, some their skills and connections, some literally give their life's blood. But everyone has something to give."
3. “Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people - your family, friends, and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way.”
4. “To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there.”
5. "If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather that dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities."
She Pointed Others to God
6. “You may think the president is all-powerful, but he is not. He needs a lot of guidance from the Lord.”
7. "You have to love your children unselfishly. That's hard. But it's the only way."
8. “Believe in something larger than yourself... get involved in the big ideas of your time.”
9. "The darn trouble with cleaning the house is it gets dirty the next day anyway, so skip a week if you have to. The children are the most important thing."
10. “Family and friends and faith are the most important things in your life and you should be building friendships.”
Barbara Bush Knew that Each of Us Can Shape the World for the Better
11. "People who worry about their hair all the time, frankly, are boring."
12. “Your success as a family... our success as a nation... depends not on what happens inside the White House, but on what happens inside your house.”
13. "Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others."
14. "Never ask anyone over 70 how they feel. They'll tell you."
15. “And who knows? Somewhere out there in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow my footsteps, and preside over the White House as the president's spouse. I wish him well!”
Thank You Mrs. Bush
In typical style of Barbara Bush, even in her final days, she was less concerned for herself than for her family. Before her death, a statement issued by a family spokesman shared, “Barbara Bush has been a rock in the face of her failing health, worrying not for herself - thanks to her abiding faith - but for others. She is surrounded by a family she adores, and appreciates the many kind messages and especially the prayers she is receiving.”
Our hearts and prayers are with the Bush family during this time. May God fill their lives with incredible peace and comfort in knowing that there are greater days still ahead, for He gives us the gift and hope of heaven.
Thank you, Mrs. Bush, for your service to our nation, your courage, your spirit of giving, and your influence to make things better. Thank you for your love and devotion to people, to your family, and to God. Our world is a better place, because of you.
Special Note – The Barbara Bush Foundation has provided a way for people to leave a word of thoughts and prayers for the Bush family during this time. Please follow the link to share a note of encouragement and to support the cause she has worked so hard for – literacy.
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Debbie McDaniel is a writer, pastor's wife, mom to three amazing kids (and a lot of pets). Join her each morning on Fresh Day Ahead's Facebook page, for daily encouragement in living strong, free, hope-filled lives.
Originally published Wednesday, 18 April 2018.