When we lost you, we lost one of the greats. You were our family’s rock, the glue that held us together. I hope you know in your final days how many people prayed for you, how many people told me they loved you. It was like that my whole life – people stopped me everywhere – in airports, on the street and declared their love for you.
It always felt good. We didn’t mind sharing you with the world.
We called you ‘the enforcer.’ It was because, of course, you were a force and you wrote the rules and your rules were simple. Treat everyone equally, don’t look down on anyone, use your voices for good, read all the great books (oh, how I will miss sharing books with you!)
I will never forget when Barbara and I as 7-year-olds snuck to the bowling alley and ordered presidential peanut butter sandwiches. We couldn’t wait for someone to deliver what was sure to be the fanciest sandwich of our lives when you opened the door, scolding us, telling us under no circumstances could we order food in the White House again, this was not a hotel. You taught us humility and grace.
You and Gampy embodied unconditional love. At our wedding Henry and I asked you to read because we so hoped we could emulate your love story. Your love letters will be passed down to my girls so they know what true devotion looks like. Hager and her twin sister, Barbara, learned “humility and grace” from their grandmother.
You always said, humor helps. Our nights spent sitting around the dinner table in Maine laughing at old family stories were made better because of your laugh. And humor was necessary because of summers surrounded by 17 raucous grandkids in Kennebunkport. Grandkids who filled the hot tub with soap, creating a giant bubble bath. Rowdy kids who loved doing cannon balls over your head while you peacefully swam laps.
From you Ganny, I have learned the gift of uniqueness and authenticity: from wearing mix-matched Keds, to your signature pearls, and snow white hair. You taught us that humor, wit and grace are the best accessories and that worrying too much about looks is (in your words) is boring. Words matter, kindness matters..looks fade.
One of your final emails to me you wrote very little. The subject line read: YOU. In the body of the email you wrote: ‘I am watching you. I love you. Ganny.’ Well, Ganny we have spent our lives watching you. Your words inspired us, your actions an example to follow. We watched as you held babies living with HIV to dispel the stigma, as you championed literacy across our country, as you held Gampy’s hand.
You always said that you were one of the luckiest women to ever live, but Gans I am filled with gratitude because you were ours. We are the lucky ones.
You did things on your own terms up until the very end. And now, you are reunited with your little girl Robin. She died so young, you called her your sweet angel in heaven. And though I never knew her, her words are still today and forever will be a treasured part of our family.
And so Ganny…we love more than tongue can tell.
Jenna Bush Hager