‘I Love You More Than Tongue Can Tell’: The Bush Family Phrase With A Heartbreaking Backstory
This is so touching.
After former U.S. President George H.W. Bush passed away on Nov. 30 at age 94, his granddaughter, Jenna Bush Hager, posted a tribute to him on social media. It included a Marshall Ramsey cartoon that showed Bush reunited in heaven with his wife, Barbara, and their oldest daughter, Pauline Robinson “Robin” Bush, who died of leukemia at age 3.
“This brought me such comfort this morning,” Bush Hager wrote, continuing that she had been able to talk about the afterlife with her grandfather in his later years.
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This brought me such comfort this morning. I had the opportunity to talk with my grandpa about the afterlife. This is what he said: He answered without any hesitation. “Yes, I think about it. I used to be afraid. I used to be scared of dying. I used to worry about death. But now in some ways I look forward to it.” And I started crying. I managed to choke out, “Well, why? What do you look forward to?” And he said, “Well, when I die, I’m going to be reunited with these people that I’ve lost.” And I asked who he hoped to see. He replied, I hope I see Robin, and I hope I see my mom. I haven’t yet figured it out if it will be Robin as the three year old that she was, this kind of chubby, vivacious child or if she’ll come as a middle-aged woman, an older woman. And then he said, “I hope she’s the three-year-old.” Robin was the daughter this giant of a man lost years before to leukemia. The little girl he held tightly: who spoke the phrase I have heard Gampy repeat for my entire life, forever knitting Robin’s voice into the tightly woven fabric of our family: “I love you more than tongue can tell.”
She asked the 41st president what he looked forward to, and he responded, “Well, when I die, I’m going to be reunited with these people that I’ve lost,” specifically mentioning his own mother and his late daughter, Robin.
“I haven’t yet figured it out if it will be Robin as the 3-year-old that she was, this kind of chubby, vivacious child or if she’ll come as a middle-aged woman, an older woman,” Bush Hager recalled her grandfather saying. “And then he said, ‘I hope she’s the 3-year-old.'”
Robin, the Bush’s eldest daughter and second oldest child, was diagnosed with leukemia in 1953. At the time, doctors considered the disease to be incurable. She passed away seven months after the family first discovered her ailment.
“Robin was the daughter this giant of a man lost years before to leukemia,” said Bush Hager, concluding her online tribute to her grandfather. “The little girl he held tightly: who spoke the phrase I have heard Gampy repeat for my entire life, forever knitting Robin’s voice into the tightly woven fabric of our family: ‘I love you more than tongue can tell.'”
“I love you more than tongue can tell” is an old phrase that Robin’s parents may have read to her in a children’s poem. And those were some of the last words Robin said to her father before she passed away.
“Dad would repeat those words for the rest of his life,” son George W. Bush wrote in “41: A Portrait of My Father.” He included them in letters to his sons at important political moments in their lives.
Robin remained on Bush Sr.’s mind in his last week of life, when he reportedly said, “I want to go be with Barbara and Robin.”
And his final words were those of love, just like those of his daughter. “I love you, too,” he told his eldest son, George W. Bush, on the phone.
Another Marshall Ramsey cartoon featured Robin back in April 2018, after Barbara Bush passed away. The illustration showed a little blond angel Robin running towards her mother, both with arms outstretched in joy.
Before she passed, Barbara Bush created a short but tear-inducing video tribute to Robin, reading her husband’s words about their late daughter.
“We need a girl. We had one once,” Barbara read in the video. “But she is still with us.”
Family meant much to Bush Sr., and a few months before he passed away, he was able to be at his granddaughter Barbara’s wedding on Oct. 8. In a photo posted to George W. Bush’s Instagram account, Bush Sr. sits and watches his son walk Barbara down the aisle.
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Barbara is named for a unique and strong woman — and rightly so, because she is unique and strong. @laurawbush and I are so proud of our compassionate, daring, fierce, kind, intelligent, loving daughter. And we’re thrilled to welcome Craig Coyne to our family. 📸: @paulmorsephoto
Jenna Bush Hager, who is Barbara’s twin sister, posted a photo on Instagram of her grandfather at the ceremony saying, “Poppy and Poppy! Magical memories of a beautiful night.” In the picture, Bush Sr., whose childhood nickname was Poppy, smiles at Jenna’s daughter and his namesake great-granddaughter, Poppy, age 3.