Weeks Before Dying, Barbara Bush Wrote a Last Letter to Her Kids from the Hospital but Didn't Finish It
"Dearest Children," she began in the hospital, "I have thought of writing this for a while"
Barbara Bush was close to death last spring when she began to write out a last letter to her children looking back at her long life, her large family and her many blessings.
She never finished the missive and never sent it, biographer Susan Page wrote in USA Today last week; her kids were not even immediately aware that it existed. But what of the letter she was able to finish makes clear that they and her love for them were on her mind.
According to a copy of the letter later shared with Page for her book, The Matriarch, Bush typed “Things I am grateful for” at the top and then began: “Dearest Children, I have thought of writing this for a while.”
Continuing, Bush, then 92, wrote of husband George H. W. Bush, her four living sons and daughter, “Needles to say I am most thankful for five men and one lady.”
“My dad was the finest brightest man,” she wrote, noting, “Although Neil and George got my dad’s hair (or growing lack of hair), Jeb and Marvin are true Bushes with height and hair.”
“I am so grateful that our children and grand children all finished school and promptly went to work,” Bush wrote. “They did not feel entitled. They and their children support themselves and are now doing good works along with working in some cases.”
Bush also noted her “many friends,” including the 1925 Club — a group of women all born that year, except for one member for whom they made an exception — and the “the Saintly Stitchers who meet on Mondays at Saint Martins [Episcopal] Church.”
“They treat me as a normal person although they do spoil me,” Bush wrote. “We stitch kneelers for the church, I did two and then my eyes got bad and now I work on Santas and Clowns that either sit on a shelf.”
Bush did not finish her letter, ending it mid-sentence, “perhaps interrupted when a visitor walked into her hospital room,” Page wrote in USA Today. She died in April 2018 after declining to continue medical treatment. She had suffered from congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and, most recently, was hospitalized after breaking her back in a fall.
Barbara Bush in 1991A diarist since her 20s, Bush wrote her last entry on April 5, 2018: “I’ve been in the hospital for forever and seem to not be getting any better, at least my breathing is not. Dr. Menderes [Amy Mynderse] came in and had a very sweet talk with me. As she rubbed my arm, she told me the most ghastly thing: She told me the next time I go home I will have hospice. I said, doesn’t that mean I am dying? She said yes. It was like being hit in the solarplex. I asked her to keep it a secret.”
While hospitalized, Bush began writing her final letter for her family. Page, with whom Bush had shared her decades of diaries, wrote that she believes she was “apparently the first person to read the letter.”
“Her son Neil told me her children weren’t aware that the letter existed until I raised it with them,” Page wrote.
Still, its contents were not a surprise.
As she famously remarked in a June 1990 commencement speech for Wellesley College: “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend, or a parent.”