Along with the rest of the world, I grieve the loss of President George H.W. Bush. Or as many call him – 41. It sure takes a smart and special person to serve as President of the United States. His devotion and personal investment in our country were great. His devotion to his wife and family was equally remarkable and noteworthy.
As the stories are told about President Bush, there’s one story about his personal life that I didn’t now. He had a three year old daughter Robin who died of leukemia in 1953. It was a time when there weren’t many advances in the treatment of leukemia. She was in a hospital in New York for many months. When Robin died, Barbara and George Bush were devastated.
Their love for Robin stayed with the Bush’s their entire lives. So much so, that President George W. Bush (43) mentioned his sister’s name during his father’s eulogy. The mentioning of Robin, 65 years after her death, touches me — deeply.
As a mother of a deceased child, I immediately connect with the deep grief of losing a child. I also connect to the powerful hope of a reconciliation with Leah after my own death.
Mentioning Robin’s name gives voice to all parents who have lost a child to death.
We can learn four, key things from George H.W. Bush’s example:
- Say the child’s name – It’s healing and affirming to hear the deceased child’s name. It’s meaningful when others acknowledge our deceased children. Our children graced this planet, whether for moments or decades, and brought us joy. Saying Robin’s name at Presiden’t Bush’s funeral told the world, “We remember Robin. She is not forgotten. She was cherished.” Saying her name was a gift to the entire family. Hearing my daughter’s name brings me joy. It doesn’t make me sad. As the years go by, I hear Leah’s name less and less. Not hearing her name is what makes me sad.
- Number of other children doesn’t lessen pain – The Bush’s have six children total. Robin was one of six. The fact that there are five other children didn’t lessen George and Barbara’s pain and grief of losing Robin. Period.
- Grief grows compassion – President Bush remained sensitive and comforting to people he met who were battling cancer or other terminal illnesses. He went out of his way to acknowledge the pain and grief that were caused by cancer.
- Time doesn’t matter – Robin died at 3 years old. President Bush hasn’t seen his daughter for 65 years. Let that sink in — 65 years. At the age of 94, this father still longed for his daughter’s presence. The hope of seeing his God, wife and daughter gave him peace as he approached death. His love for his daughter knew no time limit. He carried her in his heart until his last breath.
Personally, the last point hits me the strongest. There is a comfort in knowing that I share this connection with the Bush’s. Although a sad connection, parents who have lost children have a bond with one another.
I’ve been living four years, almost five, without my daughter Leah. My love hasn’t lessened one bit. And it never will. It is affirming to hear how devoted President Bush was to his child’s memory and the ways that her presence blessed his life.
There are good articles about the impact Robin had on the Bush family. There is one today in the Washington Post.
Thank you President Bush for loving your family and country well. May you rest in peace and enjoy your first days in heaven with Barbara and Robin.