Grace in Life ... and in Death

April 18, 2018

BarbaraBushBarbara Bush, Chef Laurent Richard, President George Bush at The Ritz-Carlton, Battery Park – September 2004

This past week, Barbara Bush taught this country – and the world – one final lesson: how to die with grace. Letting go for someone who loved and enjoyed life so fully could not have been easy. And yet, as she did in life, Barbara Bush, ever the pragmatist, decided that there would be no more hospitalizations, there would instead be time with family, at home.

I was so moved by what I read of Barbara’s last day. Her family members read aloud to her, her husband held her hand. In the embrace of her family – she passed away. A good and noble ending for a good and noble woman.

I’ve had the privilege of knowing Barbara Bush for over three decades. We both served on the Mayo Clinic board of trustees. I’ve seen her in public appearances on the campaign trail and in unguarded moments in Kennebunkport with family and friends. What always struck me about her was that the public Barbara was the same as the private one. She was who she was, with no apologies. And who she was certainly helped shape not one, but two presidents, but also brought lightness and joy to the lives of those around her.

One of my favorite memories of Barbara was when Donna and I hosted a dinner in 2004 in New York City for the Bush family while they were in town for the Convention nominating George W. Bush to his second term as President. The dinner was held at The Ritz-Carlton, Battery Park, roughly six blocks from ground zero. It was an emotional time and we chose this location deliberately – part demonstration of our commitment to the rebuilding of lower Manhattan, part validation of the city’s resilience and, likely, ours as well.

The staff at The Ritz-Carlton, Battery Park went above and beyond. They served us an amazing meal, allowing the Bush family to have some quiet and private time outside the buzz of the convention. The finest moment of the evening came at the end. The dessert was unlike anything any of us had seen – sugar spun into the shape of the great state of Texas, on it perched delicious treats in the shape of a boot, a cowboy hat, a longhorn—every detail a nod to the Bush’s home state and a confection almost too lovely to eat.

The minute it was put in front of Barbara, she started cheering and taking pictures of her dessert. She immediately said, “I need to meet the person who did this!” Pastry Chef Laurent Richard hastily came to the room at which point the whole family erupted in a standing ovation, led by Barbara. Greeting Chef Richard like a long-lost friend, she savored every detail he shared about what went into creating this incredible treat – but more than that, Barbara relished the chef’s gesture to her family, the time and the work that went into creating this moment. I’m fairly certain Chef Richard floated out of the room that night.

It’s funny how one memory can live on. I think this one does for me because it captures the essence of Barbara – her kindness, her warmth, her sparkle. Barbara made everyone feel like they were home, regardless of who they were. It is so fitting that when it came time to say goodbye that she was at home, surrounded by the people she loved.

The tributes that are being written to this amazing woman celebrate her life – her commitment to public service, her passion around literacy, the priority she placed on family, the strength she derived from her faith, and the exclusive club she inhabited being one of just two women in history who served as both First Lady and mother of a U.S. president.

And all of those accolades are true. But for me, the memory of the simple act of Barbara Bush cheering our wonderful pastry chef speaks volumes of her humanity. And that is what we will all miss the most.

Thank you, Barbara, for your friendship and your light in our lives. Rest well, dear friend.

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sad to read this post so sorry

In an age often tainted with cynicism and political skepticism, it was wonderful how our nation came together to mourn the passing of Barbara Bush, First Lady.

The role of First Lady comes with no guidebook. It is not an elective post. Yet, as an optimistic American, I view the role of the First Lady as most important. It sets a positive tone for our nation.

Mrs. Bush took on the role of champion youth literacy. She would read to students across our great nation, encouraging a love of learning.

Sometimes I feel our society is too relaxed. Her matronly style with hair quaffed and always with a string of pearls gave the office of the First Lady a sense of class and decorum.

I send my condolences to the Bush family as they mourn the passing of the matriarch of a large, successful America political family.

Democrat. Republican. Independent. I cherish the role the First Lady plays in representing the best America has to offer.

Kind regards,

Brendan Ben Feeney
Platinum Elite Marriott Member
Boston, MA

She was sincere and natural without a mask, everyone could sense that. I think this why every one could feel so good and open around Barbara Bush. Great Woman, she will be missed....

VERY NICE AND KIND WORDS FOR A WONDERFUL WOMAN. THANK YOU FOR DEVOTING THIS BLOG TO HER.

Thank you so much, Mr. Marriott, for sharing such a wonderful, personal, spontaneous memory. It's not surprising that "the personal touch" is never overlooked - or forgotten - by people who notice, and take the time to celebrate, the "little things in life" - those small gestures and earnest efforts that always make the ordinary extraordinary.

"Homespun joy" often reveals unexpected artistry, and unexpressed love, in human beings....how wonderful that those last shared thoughts - the beauty of a loved one's voice - urged us all, by example, to value the gift of "together": across boundaries, across beliefs, across politics....across the Bridge to Forever.

Thank you Mr. Marriott for this beautiful memorial to Mrs. Bush. She was such a beautiful spirit and dedicated her life to home, country and God. She will be missed.

MEMORIES!!! AMEN.

Derriere chaque Grand Homme il ya une Femme.
C'etais une tres Grande Femme.

Thank you for expressing what I feel confident every American has always thought and felt when it came to our late First Lady and First Mother....May she Rest In Peace and be rewarded for her many kindnesses while on this earth.

What a truly Beautiful Eulogy for a beautiful person!

Well said, thank you for sharing such a wonderful memory of a classy woman. Godspeed.

A gracious lady who truly liked people and treated all with respect and dignity. This story shows the essence of a great person which Mrs Bush certainly was.