Jenna Bush Hager has seen firsthand the emotional toll that the loss of a love of a lifetime can take on a family member.
During a discussion Thursday on the fourth hour of TODAY, Jenna and co-host Hoda Kotb shared the story of a 92-year-old man and an 82-year-old woman who got married after their spouses passed away.
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The union provided Jenna a chance to reflect on a conversation she had with her grandfather, George H.W. Bush, after the former president's wife, Barbara Bush, died in 2018.
“One of the most profound moments of my life was when I was in Maine the summer after my grandma died with my grandpa,” Jenna said. "And we were just sitting at the dinner table, and he said, ‘Will I always miss her this much?’ Asked me!
“And I said, ‘I don’t know, Gampy.’ He didn’t live that much longer ‘cause I don’t think he could without her. But I just thought that that was such a beautiful thing, and also a heartbreaking thing, because I couldn’t answer the question.”
“A lot of people go through their lives and have nothing even close to that,” Hoda said about the affection Jenna's grandparents had for each other. “They have love, but not like that, not the kind they can’t live without.”
Jenna's grandparents had a storybook kind of love. They married in 1945 and remained together until Barbara Bush's passing 73 years later.
In a book released earlier this year that features stories from the former first lady, Evan Sisley, a personal aide to the former president, recalled an exchange the couple shared before Barbara Bush's death: “President Bush wanted to let her know that he understood that she was dying and that it was going to be OK. He went into the living room and said, ‘Bar, I’m not worried about you.’ She looked up at him from her chair where she sat needlepointing and said, ‘I’m not worried about you either, Georgie.’”
“They spent a life protecting and devoted to each other," Sisley added. "They were secure in their faith, and they knew where the other was heading. They just wanted each other to know that it was going to be OK.”
The former commander in chief died on Nov. 30, 2018, less than eight months after his wife.