Today correspondent Jenna Bush Hager comes from one of the most famous families in the USA. After all, both her father and grandfather – George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, respectively – are former presidents. Plus, her grandmother was Barbara Bush, with whom her twin sister shares a name. Sadly, though, Jenna experienced a major loss in 2018.
Unsurprisingly, growing up as the daughter of a president wasn’t always easy for Jenna and her sister. In fact, The Daily Beast reported in 2004 that Jenna had even tried to persuade her father not to run for office back in 2000. Her father allegedly responded, “You know, Jenna, your mother and I are living our lives. And that’s what we raised you and Barbara to do: live yours.”
So when George W. Bush became president in 2001, Jenna found herself pushed into the spotlight. Of course, this wasn’t always a positive thing. Within just two months of that year, in fact, Jenna was charged twice with misdemeanors for alcohol-related offenses. First she was caught in possession of alcohol while under 21, and later she was caught using a fake ID to buy drink.
Both times Jenna admitted the charges and had to attend alcohol awareness classes. If she had been almost anyone else, the whole matter would possibly have been forgotten instantly. But because she was a first daughter, the media ran with it for a long time.
Throughout it all, though, Jenna had an anchor in her grandmother, former First Lady Barbara Bush. Barbara had raised six children of her own, one of whom died aged three, and had been a public figure for almost all of her life. She had also been strict but loving with her many grandchildren.
Jenna also admired Barbara for her dedication to her husband, George H.W. Bush. In fact, when Jenna married political aide Henry Hager, she strove to replicate her grandparents’ relationship. At her 2008 wedding, Jenna even requested that Barbara do a reading.
Clearly, then, Jenna had been very close to her grandmother. But sadly, come 2018, Barbara’s health had started to deteriorate. As news hit that Barbara was very frail, Jenna spoke to Today on April 16. “She is the best grandma anybody could of ever had or have,” she said. “Barbara and I talked to her last night, she’s in great spirits, and she’s a fighter… She reminded me not to believe everything you read.”
But unfortunately, in this case the diagnosis rang true. The next day, April 17, Barbara Bush passed away. Politicians and dignitaries from all over the world, including Queen Elizabeth II and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, sent condolences and sympathies to the Bush family. Jenna, of course, paid tribute as well.
On Today, Jenna shared a letter she had written to Barbara. “When we lost you, we lost one of the greats,” the letter read. “You were our family’s rock, the glue that held us together. I hope you know in your final days how many people prayed for you, how many people told me they loved you.”
In the letter, she also discussed Barbara’s marriage to George H.W. Bush, the man she called “Gampy.” “You and Gampy embodied unconditional love,” she said. “We hoped we could emulate your love story. Your love letters will be passed down to my girls so they know what true devotion looks like.”
Unfortunately, though, Jenna soon had to celebrate her tenth wedding anniversary without her beloved grandmother. Indeed, the celebration took place on May 10, 2018, less than a month after her grandmother passed. Jenna spent some of the interim paying tribute to Barbara on Instagram.
And come May 10, Jenna posted pictures from her wedding, including one of her and Henry kissing. “TEN years with this one by my side — could never imagine on that day in May how beautiful life would be. Love you H,” she wrote. But after that came a surprise.
Next up was a photo of Barbara at the couple’s wedding. “The best anniversary gift from my husband: pictures from ten years ago of my grandparents at our wedding. A reminder: life is precious and goes by too fast,” Jenna captioned it. It was perhaps the most thoughtful anniversary present Henry could have given her.
Jenna’s Instagram followers thought so, too. “Perfection. What a thoughtful gesture. I love the intimacy and knowing required to make such a sweet selection. Congratulations,” one user wrote. Others stopped by to appreciate the bond between Jenna and her grandma. “I do believe your dear grandmother is still peeking in on you,” a fan said.
Some people opened up to Jenna about tragedies in their own lives as well. “Jenna – I really enjoy your openness and your heart,” wrote another person. “And thank you – it’s so true. I lost my mom just four years ago. She was too young to go; I was too young to be without her. All these losses in our lives make our memories more poignant and our passion to cherish the ones to come even stronger. Happy Anniversary.”
Also included was a picture of Jenna’s grandfather, George H.W. Bush. Unsurprisingly, the former president seemingly took the loss of his wife hard. Recently, he has been suffering health problems of his own and was actually admitted to hospital the day after Barbara’s funeral with a blood infection. In May 2018 he was admitted again, this time suffering from fatigue and low blood pressure.
Yet on June 1, the then-93-year-old tweeted a post from his hospital bed. A photograph showed him holding a book titled George and Barbara Bush. “Enjoying a great book and a wonderful walk down memory lane this morning. Yet another reminder of just how lucky I have been in life. Very proud of the author and co-author too,” he wrote. The book had been co-written by another granddaughter, Ellie LeBlond Sosa.
June 8, 2018, was the day which would have been Barbara’s 93rd birthday. Of course, both Jenna and her grandfather honored her on that day. Jenna posted a picture on Instagram of George H.W. Bush alongside a 93rd birthday cake. “Celebrating a life well lived with our dearest tonight,” she wrote. “MISS you so much Ganny.”
George H.W. Bush also posted a Twitter tribute. “Sending our gratitude and family love on this special day to all who are helping carry forward the selfless work of one Barbara Pierce Bush,” the post read. “She loved helping others and did so with a joyful heart. Knowing there are so many out there who share her passion puts joy in our hearts.”
Losing a grandparent is always hard, especially if another grandparent is in ill health, too. Luckily, Jenna is surrounded by family who can help her through it, including a seemingly very thoughtful husband. Barbara will always be with her as well – in photographs and in spirit.