The granddaughter of former U.S. First Lady Barbara Bush says Bush is in “great spirits” and is grateful for “everybody’s prayers,” a day after the family said Bush is in failing health.
A spokesman for the family, Jim McGrath, gave more details on Monday about the former first lady’s health history but did not elaborate on her current health issues. He said she has suffered in recent years from congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
McGrath said on Sunday that Bush, who is 92, has decided to seek “comfort care” rather than further medical treatment.
Bush, the wife of one U.S. president and the mother of a second, made the decision following a recent series of hospitalizations and after consulting with her family and doctors, according to McGrath.
Bush’s granddaughter, Jenna Bush Hager, who is an anchor on NBC’s Today show, told the program Monday that Bush is resting comfortably at her home in Houston, Texas, and is surrounded by her family.
“She’s the best grandma anybody could have ever had or have. … She is in great spirits and she’s a fighter,” Hager said.
She said the former first lady is with her husband, former President George H.W. Bush, and said their relationship is “remarkable.” Hager said the former president “still says, ‘I love you Barbie’ every night.”
In years past, Barbara Bush has suffered from Graves’ disease, a thyroid condition, and bronchitis, a respiratory ailment.
Barbara Bush, often known for her outspoken remarks and self-deprecating wit, was the U.S. first lady from 1989 to 1993 when her husband was the country’s 41st president. He is 93 years old and also has been in failing health in recent years.
Barbara Bush is the mother of former President George W. Bush, the country’s 43rd president, and former Florida governor Jeb Bush.
She is one of only two first ladies who was also the mother of a president. The other was Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, the nation’s second president, and mother of John Quincy Adams, the sixth president.
The Bushes married on Jan. 6, 1945. They had six children and have been married longer than any presidential couple in U.S. history.
While in the public eye, Barbara Bush was always a fierce advocate of her husband and children. As recently as 2016, she campaigned for her son Jeb, who was seeking the presidency of the United States.
As first lady, she made her main focus literacy and became involved in a number of reading organizations. She established the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy decades ago, promoting reading skills across America, particularly for young children.
She’s known for her white hair and triple-strand fake pearl necklace.
Her brown hair began to gray in the 1950s, while her 3-year-old daughter Pauline, known to her family as Robin, underwent treatment for leukemia and eventually died in October 1953. Barbara Bush later said dyed hair didn’t look good on her and credited the eventual all-white color to the public’s perception of her as “everybody’s grandmother.”
Her pearls sparked a national fashion trend when she wore them to her husband’s inauguration in 1989. The pearls became synonymous with Bush, who later said she selected them to hide the wrinkles in her neck. The candid admission only bolstered her commonsense and down-to-earth public image.
She is also known for her quick temper and sharp tongue.
Barbara Bush kept her sarcasm under wraps in public, though one noted slip came in 1984 when her husband was running for re-election as vice president with President Ronald Reagan. Their Democratic challengers, Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro, questioned whether wealthy people like the Bushes could relate to average Americans. An irritated Barbara Bush told a reporter that Ferraro was a “$4 million — I can’t say it — but it rhymes with rich.” Bush later said she meant “witch” and apologized. Ferraro, the first female vice presidential candidate representing a major U.S. political party, accepted the apology. She died in 2011.
Barbara Bush also came under intense criticism was for her remarks after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. The Bushes had toured relocation centers in Texas, where a number of victims had relocated. After the visit, the former first lady remarked that many of the poor people she had seen were faring better than before the storm hit.
“What I’m hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas,” Barbara Bush said in a radio interview. “And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway,” she said, “so this is working very well for them.”
Barbara Pierce Bush was born June 8, 1925, in Rye, New York. Her father was the publisher of McCall’s and Redbook magazines. Along with her memoirs, she’s the author of C. Fred’s Story and Millie’s Book, based on the lives of her dogs.