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Jenna Bush Hager pays homage in her new book to four special people whose wisdom has continued to guide her long after they taught her respect and kindness as a child.
The co-host of TODAY with Hoda & Jenna shares personal essays about everything she has learned from her grandparents, former President George H.W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush, and Harold and Jenna Welch, in her new book, "Everything Beautiful in Its Time." The title comes from a Bible verse Jenna shared at the funeral for Jenna Welch last year.
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All of Jenna's grandparents were prolific letter writers, so Jenna pays tribute to that tradition in her book with some letters of her own to her grandparents, twin sister and three children.
She read excerpts from those letters on TODAY to celebrate the book's release on Tuesday, including one to Barbara Bush, who was known as her beloved "Ganny." Jenna, 38, wrote a letter on her 37th birthday to the woman known as the family enforcer, a grandmother of 17 and great grandmother of 8 who posted typed rules behind every door for the children at the family home in Maine for them to live by.
"Dear Ganny, today is my birthday," Jenna read. "You know that, of course. You were always so good about marking every holiday, every special occasion. Now that you're gone, I feel your absence most strongly on these days. When once there was a letter from you, now there is a void."
Jenna lost three of her grandparents in a short span between Barbara Bush's death at 92 in April 2018, followed by George H.W. Bush's death at 94 in November of that year and then Jenna Welch's death at 99 in May of last year. Harold Welch died in 1995.
Jenna is named after Jenna Welch, who lived as a homemaker with Harold, a builder, at their home in Midland, Texas.
"She was also an extraordinary force in my life," Jenna said. "She never graduated from college, but she never stopped learning. She was a naturalist. She had a rock collection that Barbara and I would study. And she taught us every constellation in the sky."
Jenna also fondly recalled a tradition of walking to the gate at her grandparents' house in Kennebunkport, Maine, after family dinners. She has now shared that tradition with her own three young children.
"I thought about my grandparents entering heaven's gates, and here were our gates," she writes in her book. "I touched the cold metal and turned around. 'Now what,' asked Poppy. It was her first trip. She didn't quite understand that there was no purpose beyond spending a moment together after a meal, getting a little exercise before bed.
"This is what life is all about. Until it's your time to enter the gates of heaven, and join those in your family who have died, you walk to the gate, and walk back. You hope that the sky is clear, so you can see the moon glowing over the ocean. And you hope to always walk with those you love by your side."
"It is my mama who taught me how to be a mom," she wrote. "But it is you, my darlings, who are teaching me what it means to be a mom. When I hold you at night, singing the same songs your Grammy sang to me, I am filled with unconditional love.
"And I think about my strong mama, and my grandmas, and the women that came before. And I am so grateful you are mine. Just like those moments dancing, years ago, feet in rhythm to my mama's step, I'm following her lead again. And I'm dancing with the two of you as often as I can. Love, Mama."
Jenna's mother, former first lady Laura Bush, also fostered Jenna's love of reading and writing. Jenna has written two children's books with her mother as well as the best-seller "Sisters First" with her twin sister, Barbara. She also is the founder of TODAY's popular book club, Read With Jenna.