‘You were our family’s rock’


Jenna Bush Hager paid an emotional tribute to her grandmother Thursday, reading from a letter she wrote to former first lady Barbara Bush, who died this week at age 92.

“Dearest Ganny, when we lost you, we lost one of the greats. You were our family’s rock, the glue that held us together,” Hager, 36, says in a video letter aired on NBC’s “Today.”

Hager, who has worked at “Today” since 2009, also said on the show that her family is experiencing “waves of gratitude for a life well lived” mixed with “pangs of sadness.”

Her grandfather, former President George H.W. Bush, “misses [Barbara] of course,” but is trying to keep the rest of the family’s spirits afloat, because “he doesn’t want us to worry about him,” she said.

In the video, Hager paid tribute to her grandparents’ seven-decade-long romance, saying they embodied “unconditional love.”

“Your love letters will be passed down to my girls so they know what true devotion looks like,” Hager said.

Throughout her life, Hager recalled how people have stopped her “in airports, on the street” to talk about her widely beloved grandmother.

“It always felt good,” she says. “We didn’t mind sharing you with the world.”

The lessons imparted by her grandmother will stay with her forever, Hager says.

“We called you ‘the enforcer.’ It was because you were a force and you wrote the rules. Your rules were simple: treat everyone equally. Don’t look down on anyone. Use your voice for good. Read all the great books. Oh, how I’ll miss sharing books with you,” Hager says.

At 7 years old, when her grandfather was president, Hager and sister Barbara tried to order peanut butter sandwiches to the White house bowling alley, she recalls in the footage.

“We couldn’t wait for someone to deliver what was sure to be the fanciest sandwich of our lives. Then you opened the door, scolding us, telling us under no circumstances could we order food in the White House again. This was not a hotel.”

“You taught us humility and grace,” she says.

Hager also remembered family vacations spent at their compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, and nights around the dinner table laughing at her grandmother’s stories.

She looked back fondly on how graciously her grandmother handled the raucous 17 grandkids who filled the hot tub with soap and did cannonballs over her head as she swam laps.

In a final email to her granddaughter, Barbara Bush had written “You” in the subject line and “I am watching you. I love you. Ganny,” Hager shared.

“Well, Ganny, we have spent our lives watching you. Your words inspired us. Your actions — an example to follow,” she said. “We watched as you held babies living with HIV to dispel the stigma, as you championed literacy across our country, as you held Gampy’s hand.”

“You always said that you were one of the luckiest women to ever live, but Gans, I am filled with gratitude because you were ours. We are the lucky ones. You did things on your own terms, up until the very end, and now you’re reunited with your little girl, Robin,” Hager said, referring to Barbara and George H.W. Bush’s daughter, who died of leukemia at age 3 in 1953.

“We love you more than tongue can tell,” Hager signed off.


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