I follow @michelleobama on Instagram because I admire how she greets the world with compassion and strength. A passionate Democrat and former First Lady of The United States of America, she speaks with as much grace as any woman I’ve heard, consistently using language to compel our citizenry to unite in times of sadness and grieving.
Minutes after learning of President George H.W. Bush’s passing, Mrs. Obama posted this gracious tweet. “As a public servant, father, and grandfather, President George H.W. Bush was an extraordinary example for us all. His spirit of service and decency will be missed by many, including our family. I hope his memory will be a guiding light for our country and those around the world.”
Yesterday, President George H.W. Bush was memorialized by family and friends and laid to rest in Houston, TX, next to his wife of seventy-three years. President Bush will be remembered as a man who fought to strengthen the institution of the presidency, who worked diligently to protect the United States of America from a series of building historical threats from other nations, and who above all else, sought humility and kindness in both his family relationships and friendships.
Today, I can’t help but remember the passing of his wife just seven months ago, April 17, 2018. Maybe I think of her so much now because I recall how they loved each other. In a collection of letters he wrote to her in 1999, according to the Associated Press, he penned, “You have given me joy that few men know. I have climbed perhaps the highest mountain in the world, but even that cannot hold a candle to being Barbara’s husband.”
Of his family relationships and friendships, his marriage to Barbara Bush was the most important. From the time he began serving in political office, she is photographed by his side — strong, forward-thinking, and confident. Looking back, I think her fortitude intimidated many, especially the American media who wanted Mrs. Bush to speak a certain way and look a certain way.
But Barbara Bush chose her own way.
During her service as First Lady of the United States of America, Barbara Bush was scrutinized by a number of media outlets because she looked grandmotherly, her hair white and her body shape average. As an adolescent girl, I remember magazine covers demeaning Mrs. Bush’s style choices, especially because they revealed her age. Her clothes, her pearls, her lackluster pumps.
When asked about why she chose not to dye her hair, I appreciate the response Barbara Bush gave. In the 2015 Today show interview with her granddaughter, Jenna Bush Hager, Mrs. Bush responded, “The white hair was because I wanted to play golf. I wanted to play tennis. I wanted to swim and my hair turned, as I’m sure anyone else with tell you, orange, green, yellow, depending on how much chlorine in the pool. So I decided to go white.”
How is that for practical and confident?
Besides the countless educational initiatives she backed to help impoverished children in this country and her compassionate work for AIDS victims, here and abroad, Barbara Bush stood for something much more dignified than trendy runway looks and tweetable images that portray power.
Barbara Bush embodied the woman that Proverbs 31 praises. “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:11-12.
Today, as we conclude mourning former President George H.W. Bush, we celebrate the kind of life he intentionally chose to live.
And though I may be eight months late in saying it, Thank You, Barbara Bush, for choosing the kind of beautiful and lovely life you chose to live.