"One of the reasons I made the most important decision of my life, to marry George Bush, is because he made me laugh,” said the woman besotted with her husband even after 72 years of being married.
Some people wait their whole lives to find their true soulmates while others find them early on in life and know that they need to hold on to them. Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara fall in the latter category. And their love story was truly beautiful, one that lasted beyond their physical bodies.
So when it came time for the former First Lady and literacy advocate to pass away, she proved that in her eyes, George was truly spectacular and the only one for her. In her book Pearls of Wisdom: Little Pieces of Advice (That Go a Long Way), published posthumously, the couple's son, Jeb Bush, recalled a sweet interaction between his parents before his mother's passing. It was a moment that moved everyone to tears.
“The last time my mom went into the hospital, I think Dad got sick on purpose so he could be with her. That’s my theory, at least, because literally a day later he showed up with an illness,” wrote Jeb in the book, according to People. “He came into her room while she was sleeping and held her hand. His hair was standing straight up, and he was wearing a hospital gown. In other words, he looked like hell! Mom opened her eyes and said, ‘My God, George, you are devastatingly handsome.’ Every nurse, doctor, staffer had to run to the hallway because they all started crying.”
It truly was a touching moment and George proved that he couldn't live without his beloved wife of 73 years when he passed away just eight months later. But their story will live on as even death couldn't keep them apart.
...in December 1941, according to Biography. A then 17-year-old George met a young girl wearing a green and red dress at a dance and was immediately star-struck by her. Knowing that she was something special, he introduced himself to 16-year-old Barbara Pierce. They first danced with each other and then decided to strike up a proper conversation.
In her 1994 memoir, Barbara recalled that she told her mother after the dance, "On this night I told her I’d met the nicest, cutest boy, named Poppy Bush (George's nickname)" while the lovestruck teen described to his own mother that she was "the niftiest girl at the dance." Since then, they never looked back. However, it wasn't an easy path for them.
The two had to be content with a long-distance relationship at the time as Barbara went to Ashley Hall boarding school in South Carolina while George attended school in Massachusetts. But they weren't going to give up on each other. “She was wild about him,” George’s brother Johnathan said, according to Town and Country Mag. “And for George, if anyone wants to be wild about him, it’s fine with him.”
A year and a half later, they got engaged just before the former president went off to fight in World War II with the Navy. "I love you, precious, with all my heart and to know that you love me means my life. How often I have thought about the immeasurable joy that will be ours someday," he wrote to his beloved on the day their engagement was announced in the paper. "Goodnite, my beautiful. Every time I say beautiful, you about kill me, but you'll have to accept it."
During 1943's spring season, he wrote to his mother, "I know that there is such a chance of her meeting some other guy. She is so very young and so darn attractive." But their love would pass that test. However, during the course of the war, George's plane was shot down in September 1994 and he plummeted to the water below. Though he was rescued, Barbara didn't hear from him for a month, something that must have truly devastated her. But after returning to the States a few months later, they wed on January 6, 1945.
Ready to bring their babies into the world, they had their son, future president George W. Bush in 1946 and daughter Pauline Robinson Bush, nicknamed Robin, in 1949. However, tragedy struck when they found out that at just three years of age, Robin was diagnosed with leukemia. Using as many resources and connections as they could, they managed to get her to a hospital in New York City.
Despite that, at the time, treatment of the disease was limited and eight short months later, the toddler passed away. It truly broke the young parents' hearts but "George held me tight and wouldn't let me go. You know, 70 percent of the people who lose children get divorced because one doesn't talk to the other. He did not allow that," said Barbara according to Biography. Soon, they managed to move on and have four more kids, Jeb (John Ellis Bush), Neil Mallon, Marvin Pierce, and Dorothy Walker.
Years later, after George became America's 41st president, the mother-of-five said that marrying him was the "most important decision of my life." "One of the reasons I made the most important decision of my life, to marry George Bush, is because he made me laugh,” she said at the 1990 Wellesley Commencement Ceremony. “It's true, sometimes we've laughed through our tears, but that shared laughter has been one of our strongest bonds.”
Just as Barbara stood by her husband as he campaigned to be the president, he was there for her when she suffered depression earlier in the 1970s. "Night after night George held me weeping in his arms while I tried to explain my feelings," she said. In the spring 2018 edition of her alumnae magazine, Barbara wrote, "I am still old and still in love with the man I married 72 years ago." And he never failed to tell her he loved her every night, either, especially when she was starting to leave them.
In his eulogy for his mother, Jeb Bush spoke about his parents’ remarkable marriage, saying, “Our family has had a front-row seat for the most amazing love story.”