“My dad is a phenomenal letter writer, and he would write mom on their wedding anniversaries, which totaled an amazing 73 years. Here’s one of them written on January 6, 1984,” Jeb, 65, said as he prepared to read the letter.
“ ‘Will you marry me? Oops, I forget we did that 49 years ago. I was very happy on that day in 1945, but I’m even happier today. You have given me joy that few men know. You have made our boys into men by balling them out and then right away, by loving them. You’ve helped Doro be the sweetest, greatest daughter in the whole world,’ ” he recited.
“ ‘I’ve climbed perhaps the highest mountain in the world, but even that cannot hold a candle to being Barbara’s husband. Mom used to tell me, now George, don’t walk ahead. Little did she know I was only trying to keep up, keep up with Barbara Pierce from Rye, New York, I love you,’ ” Jeb continued.
The couple shared sons George W. Bush, Jeb, Neil, Marvin and daughters Dorothy and Robin, who died after a battle with leukemia in 1953.
Towards the end of his speech, the former Florida governor also shared a story highlighting his father and mother’s enduring love for each other.
“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,” Jeb said.
“He came into her room when she was sleeping and held her hand. His hair was standing straight up, he had on a mask to improve his breathing, 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,’ ” Jeb continued.
“Every nurse, doctor, staffer had to run to the hallway because they started crying,” he added.
Earlier in the ceremony, presidential historian Jon Meacham, who has written the book Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, also shared a touching letter the former president had written to his wife during World War II.
“ ‘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 ourssomedayy, how lucky our children will be to have a mother like you,’ ” Meacham said, as he read from the letter.
Continuing, he added, “And if you ask them, they’ll be the first to say they were.”
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But Meacham also added that in addition to having a loving relationship with her children and grandchildren, Mrs. Bush and her family also enjoyed gently poking fun at each other.
“When she once unwisely described a female political opponent of her husband’s as a word that rhymed with ‘rich,’ she reported that her family had begun calling her the poet laureate,” Meacham said. “And she loved the story of how when her eldest son, the 43th president of the united states, took up painting, his instructor asked him if he’d ever used the color burnt umber. ‘No,’ 43 replied, but he did remember that from his mother’s cooking.”
“Brings down the house, she would say approvingly,” he remarked.
And that relationship continued up until Mrs. Bush’s “final days,” Meacham added.
“In her final days, while the 43rd president was visiting, Mrs. Bush asked one of her doctors if she’d like to know why George W. had turned out the way he had. And then she announced, ‘I smoked and drank while I was pregnant,’ ” he said.
Her friend Susan Baker also shared a humorous story about how the former first lady kept up a correspondence “for several years with a young girl who named her heifer after Barbara.”
“The child sent frequent updates on the bovine Barbara Bush, which competed in the Houston Rodeo and Livestock show one year and finished in 8th place,” Baker continued, adding that Mrs. Bush later said that although she was “sorry for my little friend,” she had also been “slightly relieved.”
“I am not sure i could have stood the headlines: Barbara Bush wins the fat stock show,” Baker continued, as she remembered the words of her departed friend.