When, several weeks ago, a Christian couple who own a bakery in Northern Ireland won…
A woman of values
“They say” that former first lady Barbara Pierce Bush, who died in mid-April, smoked cigarettes. Well, she reached adulthood when smoking was common, indeed expected. She also represented many values that universally were revered in this country once upon a time, but not so much today, sadly.
Before proceeding too far, it must be noted that her opinions about abortion troubled many Americans. She supported “a woman’s right to choose” to have an abortion, and she frankly and openly always said so. Her husband, former President George Herbert Walker Bush himself at one time thought as she thought regarding abortion, but he changed, totally. He is recalled as a champion of unborn life.
And according to the record, almost every first lady, Republican or Democrat, since the U.S. Supreme Court declared access to abortion to be a constitutional right 45 years ago, has been in favor of legalized abortion. Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama all advocated legal abortion. Patricia Nixon was quiet on the subject. Rosalynn Carter always has condemned abortion, but she is against legally forbidding it. Melania Trump has never publicly spoken of abortion, one way or the other.
Still, Barbara Bush’s abortion views aside, and they were disappointing, she displayed many qualities to be admired. When so many marriages are falling apart, and when so many live together without being married, she and the former president were wed for more than 70 years. From every indication, the bond of marriage between them always was strong.
After returning home from serving in the Navy, George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, left their home in Connecticut and moved to Texas. It had to have been a major step for them. Connecticut was in their very bones. Their families had been part of New England literally for centuries. Barbara’s ancestors arrived aboard the Mayflower. Forebears fought in the American Revolution. President Franklin Pierce was in her family tree. Each was from the elite of the elite, enjoying all the advantages furnished by wealth and connections.
They were parents of six children. So often today, many spouses fear being parents and even resent the arrival of children. Almost as a rule, children come because of “planning.” Large families are fuel for jokes. Look at the abortions, not “to save the life of the mother,” but to avoid the “inconvenience” of children.
Quite obviously, Barbara and George Bush welcomed, and loved, all their children.
Their oldest, George W. Bush, served two terms as U.S. president. Another son, “Jeb,” John Ellis Bush, was governor of Florida. Forget politics. These two sons today are honorable, morally upstanding and patriotic men. Both credit their parents.
Barbara Bush herself said that being a loyal spouse and a caring mother was her vocation, a good and fine vocation, never in the least an alternative or a consolation prize. Once she gave the commencement address at her own alma mater. The audience rebuked her for being “just” a spouse and mother. She held her own.
History has shown that sound marriages and families build strong societies.
She and her husband endured heartbreak. Their daughter, Robin, died when she was only 3 years of age, of leukemia. Once in an interview, Barbara Bush and her husband were asked to identify the greatest trial they had faced in their lives. Both instantly said it was Robin’s illness and death. They never mentioned political defeats or losses in business.
She got that right. God, be merciful to her.
Msgr. Owen F. Campion is OSV’s chaplain.