Barbara Bush

“At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one more verdict, or not having closed one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend, or a parent.”

Barbara Bush

On April 17, 2018, Barbara Bush, the wife of one president and mother of another, passed away at her home in Houston, Texas, at the age of 92. Even as the end drew nearer, Mrs. Bush never wavered in her steadfast dedication to what she regarded as the most important thing in her life: her family. After a life full of many adventures and much joy, she, in her last moments, wanted to be surrounded by the people she truly loved. When Mrs. Bush was in her final moments, there is no doubt what images came before her eyes: the memories of the time spent with those by her side, of a life well-lived and full. It is impossible to think that when she died, Mrs. Bush had any regrets.

Barbara Bush was born on June 8, 1925, in Manhattan, New York, to parents Pauline and Marvin Pierce and grew up in the town of Rye, New York, with her three siblings. As a youth, Mrs. Bush was athletic and enjoyed swimming, tennis, and bike riding; however, her favorite pastime was always reading, as her family would gather in the evenings to read together. When she was sixteen, the then-Miss Pierce met her future husband George Bush at a dance at the Round Hill Country Club in Greenwich, Connecticut. After eighteen months, they became engaged right before George was called to serve in World War II as a navy torpedo bomber pilot; during the course of the war, he named three of his planes after his future wife. When George returned to the United States on leave in 1945, he and Barbara decided to finally be married on January 6.

After the war the Bushes moved to Odessa, Texas, the state where George entered the oil industry and began his political career. In 1963, George was elected as the Harris County Republican Party Chairman, and one year later, he ran for a seat in the Senate. George lost this election, but the resulting publicity would catapult him and Barbara onto the national scene, beginning their journey to the White House. In 1966, Bush was elected to the House of Representatives, a position that would allow his wife to have a more active role in the public sphere as she supported several different charities and Republican women’s groups. George continued to serve in various political positions until 1980, when he served as vice president to Ronald Reagan for the next eight years. It was during this time that Mrs. Bush took a special interest in the cause of illiteracy due to her son Neil’s dyslexia. As a result, she focused all her energy on researching the issue of illiteracy and its causes, chief of which she found to be homelessness. During her time as the Second Lady, Barbara Bush traveled around the United States and the world, both on official trips with her husband and on her own, to combat illiteracy and wrote a children’s book entitled C. Fred’s Story, whose profits were all given to a literacy charity.

In addition to being a leading force for social change, Mrs. Bush was also a powerful political speaker and orator. She routinely spoke before crowds on issues she valued and became the third candidate’s spouse to speak at the national party convention which nominated her husband. During the 1988 election, Mrs. Bush helped plan George’s campaign and took to the stump for him, winning over crowds with her famous sense of humor and self-deprecating wit. After George won, Mrs. Bush continued her fight against illiteracy as the First Lady, as she became involved with several literacy organizations, served on literacy committees, and chaired many reading organizations. She also helped develop the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy and spoke on both the Oprah Winfrey Show and Mrs. Bush’s Story Time, a national radio program stressing the importance of reading aloud to children, to advance the cause of literacy. Mrs. Bush also actively worked to revitalize the White House Historical Association, which was charged with restoring and refurbishing the president’s home. In 1990, Mrs. Bush gave the Wellesley College commencement address, which is ranked as one of the one hundred greatest speeches of the twentieth century.

After leaving the White House in 1993, the Bushes had to adjust to living a normal life again. However, they continued to speak on important issues and support several charities in their civilian life. On September 28, 1995, the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital was announced in Portland, Maine, in honor of the first lady. In 1999, she campaigned for her son George W. Bush during his bid for the presidency, a race she initially doubted he win. Mrs. Bush initially opposed her other son Jeb’s decision to run for president in 2016, but she eventually changed course and supported Jeb by appearing in one of his campaign ads.
Mrs. Bush was diagnosed with Graves’ disease in 1988 and later suffered from congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a result of her twenty-five years of smoking. She was hospitalized several times in the late 2000’s for various ailments and underwent several surgeries. In April 2018, Mrs. Bush decided to not go to the hospital any more, choosing comfort care with her family instead of further treatment. She died on April 17, and her funeral was held on April 21. After her death, President Trump ordered that all American flags be at half-staff and sent the Bush family his condolences. Former presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barrack Obama also sent their condolences to the Bush family, as did Queen Elizabeth II of England, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and First Lady Melania Trump all attended the service.

In April, Mrs. Bush passed from this life to the next, having completed what can only be described as a fulfilling, purposeful, and loving life. She will be missed, but unlike those many great leaders who pass before their due time, it can never be said that Barbara Bush would regret what she did not do with her life. She had a wonderful husband with whom she shared an eighty-three-year-long adventure, an amazing political career in which she served her nation and its underprivileged, and, most of all, a loving family who was with her in her last moments. The United States may regret having lost such a wonderful woman, but they can be consoled by the fact that Barbara Bush ended her life the way she lived it: with love.