Robin Bush, George H.W. Bush’s daughter who died just before she turned four-years-old, has a grave on the grounds of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, next to the Barbara Bush Rose Garden. Barbara Bush was buried next to her beloved daughter’s grave, and now George Bush will buried next to them also.
Named Pauline Robinson “Robin” Bush, she was born just five days before Christmas in 1949. Then she passed away less than four years later from leukemia.
Barbara Bush told the Today Show in 2012 that George expected to see Robin first when he died. In 1958, five years after Robin died, George wrote a letter to his mother about his grief, ABC News reported.
He wrote: “We need some starched crisp frocks to go with all our torn-kneed blue jeans and helmets. We need some soft blond hair to offset those crew cuts. We need a doll house to stand firm against our forts and rackets and thousand baseball cards… We need a little one who can kiss without leaving egg or jam or gum. We need a girl… We had one once. She’d fight and cry and play and make her way just like the rest but there was about her a certain softness. She was patient. Her hugs were just a little less wiggly… But she is still with us. We need her and yet we have her. We can’t touch her and yet we can feel her. We hope she’ll stay in our house for a long, long time.”
You can see Barbara Bush reading segments of the letter below:
When their daughter Robin was only three, in 1953, she was diagnosed with leukemia after she started acting very listless and fatigued — out of character for such a young girl. So they went to the doctors for help, having no idea what news they were going to receive. The doctors told them that there was no hope for a cure. They said she would be gone in two to three weeks, and they should just take her home and love her in the time they had left. They refused to give up, and fought for her life for seven months. Friends in Midland gave blood in her honor. George went to church every morning on his way to work.
They tried to keep things as normal as possible for Robin during her treatment in the hospital (even if George did have to leave the room when she was getting transfusions sometimes, Barbara later said.) They tried to not let Robin know that she was so sick. Barbara wouldn’t let anyone cry in her hospital room. But the inevitable finally happened. Barbara said she could feel Robin’s spirit leave as she combed her hair on October 11, 1953, just two months before she was going to turn four.
They had fought for months, but the medicine that controlled the leukemia began causing other problems, Barbara wrote in her memoir. “Eventually the medicine that was controlling the leukemia caused other terrible problems. We called George, and by the time he got there after flying all night, our baby was in a coma. Her death was very peaceful. One minute she was there, and the next she was gone.”
Barbara said that she and George felt an enormous pain after Robin’s death. She told Texas Monthly:
“It felt like our hearts were breaking. … I hadn’t cried at all when Robin was alive, but after she died, I felt I could cry forever. George had a much harder time when she was sick. He was just killing himself, while I was very strong. That’s the way a good marriage works. Had I cried a lot, he wouldn’t have. But then things reversed after she died. George seemed to accept it better.
No matter how many years passed, the two parents looked back lovingly on Robin and looked forward to seeing her again one day. George carried a gold medallion in his wallet for more than 40 years that read “For the love of Robin,” LA Times reported.
Jenna Bush Hager, George Bush’s granddaughter, wrote on Instagram about how she had a chance to talk to her grandfather about the afterlife before he died. “He said… 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… Well, when I die, I’m going to be reunited with these people that I’ve lost… I hope I see Robin, and I hope I see my mom. I haven’t yet figured 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… I hope she’s the three-year-old.”
Jenna shared a similar sentiment on Instagram after her grandmother died:
Barbara and George Bush donated Robin’s body to science after she died, hoping that she would somehow help other children live. Barbara told Jenna about the decision: “It made Gampy and me feel that something good is coming out of this precious little life. And today, almost nobody dies of leukemia.”
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