What Barbara Bush Told George H. W. During Her Last Hospital Trip That Made the Staff Cry

In a new book, son Jeb Bush recalls: "Mom opened her eyes and said, 'My God, George, you are devastatingly handsome' "

A new book by former First Lady Barbara Bush, published posthumously, gives fresh insight into her historic romance with former President George H. W. Bush.

In Pearls of Wisdom: Little Pieces of Advice (That Go a Long Way), released Tuesday, their son Jeb Bush remembers an interaction between his parents shortly before his mother’s death in April 2018 — one that brought the attending hospital staff 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,” writes Jeb in the book, which is a collection of stories and advice from the Bush matriarch’s friends and family. “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!”

Jeb, 67, continues: “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.”

The former first lady and literacy advocate had long suffered from congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She was hospitalized several times before she decided to forgo further medical treatment.

Nearly eight months after Mrs. Bush’s death, her husband died.

George H.W. Bush Barbara
George H. W. Bush and wife, Barbara Bush
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George H.W. Bush Barbara
Leonard McCombe/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty

“Every day of his 73 years of marriage, dad taught us all what it means to be a great husband. … He was dedicated to her totally,” former President George W. Bush said during his father’s funeral on Dec. 5, 2018.

The younger Bush added, “Through our tears, let us know the blessings of knowing and loving you, a great and noble man. … And in our grief, let us know that dad is hugging Robin and holding mom’s hand again.”

Mrs. Bush’s dedication to her husband and children is evident in the various anecdotes shared in Pearls of Wisdom. In the book, her granddaughter Lauren Bush Lauren writes that one lesson her “Ganny” taught her was to “be loyal.”

“My Ganny was loyal to my grandfather until the end. As they both got older, she would often say that she wanted to live one day longer than our Gampy,” writes Lauren. “She wanted to be there for him, and when he was gone, she would be ready to go.”

George H.W. Bush Barbara
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Pearls of Wisdom: Little Pieces of Advice (That Go a Long Way) Barbara Bush

While Mrs. Bush didn’t get her wish, when she died at the age of 92 her longtime love was with her.

“He held her hand all day today and was at her side when [she] left this good earth,” a spokeswoman said in a statement at the time.

President Bush was “broken-hearted” after his wife’s death, according to the statement. But he and his kids took comfort knowing that they’d all meet again in heaven.

RELATED VIDEO: George W. Bush Cries During Emotional Eulogy of Father George H. W.

“She truly believes there’s an afterlife, that she’ll be wonderfully received in the arms of a loving God,” the younger President Bush told the Fox Business Network shortly after his mother’s passing. “And therefore did not fear death. And as a result of her soul being comforted on the deathbed, my soul is comforted.”

Pearls of Wisdom is on sale now.

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