The nation lost one of the most popular First Ladies in history this week. Mrs. Bush, wife of President George H.W. Bush (41) died at home at the age of 92 with her family at her side and holding hands with her husband. It was announced last week-end that Mrs. Bush, having suffered from COPD and numerous other ailments, made the decision to forego further treatment for congestive heart failure and announced that she just wanted to be with her family in her final days.
Barbara Pierce Bush lived quite a life in her 92 years. She was married to her husband, George, for 73 years, far longer than any other First Couple in history. She was a distant relative of President Franklin Pierce and was one of only two women in history to be married to one President and the mother of another. Abigail Adams, the only other woman to share this unusual distinction, was the wife of John Adams (our second President) and was also the mother of John Quincy Adams, our 6th President, who was in office from 1825-1829.
Barbara Bush was First Lady during her husband’s four year term as President after he served eight years as Vice-President to President Reagan. Barbara was a down to earth person who advocated for family literacy and even started her own non-profit to advance the cause. She wrote several books about the family dogs and raised well over $1 million which she donated to literacy programs.
Early in their marriage, Mrs. Bush dedicated her time to assisting her husband and overseeing the raising of the six Bush children. One of them, a girl named Robin, died at the age of three from leukemia, and this tragic loss undoubtedly contributed to the strong sense of family that the Bush’s embraced. In fact, Mrs. Bush will be buried near Robin at the Bush Presidential Library.
It may even go without saying that George and Barbara Bush, by all accounts, were deeply in love and dedicated to each other through all the years of their marriage. Through President Bush’s entire career, from the military to head of the CIA to an emissary overseas, to the Vice-Presidency and then the Presidency, Mrs. Bush was a stalwart partner to her husband. Basing their operations in Houston, the family also had a compound in Kennebunkport, ME. Janet and I have actually driven past it several times and on one of our trips were in the area after the estate was destroyed by high winds and waves on Walker Point.
The legacy of the Bush family seems to be a beacon of hope for the American family. Mrs. Bush was always humble, yet active in causes that she cared deeply about. A highly practical woman, she embraced her husband’s career and also campaigned tirelessly when their oldest son, George W., ran for President at the end of the Clinton administration. She, as well as the other family members, have deep faith and she did not fear death. She served God and believed that her main job was to demonstrate love in the family and across the world. In fact, she was one of the first people to hold AIDS babies in public and start to erase the fears of interacting with victims of AIDS.
Tonight’s verse, a somewhat long one, deals with the traits the Bible identifies in a great wife. Admittedly, in the KJV and other older translations, the language can seem outdated and no longer relevant. But the Proverbs do give us the most complete description in the entire Scripture of what we are told about wonderful wives and mothers. Clearly, success is a family affair where both parents are skilled in their respective fields and take pride in the raising of their children. Of course, today, women in the workplace – and as advocates of wonderful causes, transcend the types of work mentioned in the following passage from thousands of years ago. In deference to the less formal language today, I have chosen to use The Message, a loose phrase by phrase translation of the Bible. We are told, in Proverbs 31:10-31,
“Prov. 31:10 A good woman is hard to find,
and worth far more than diamonds.
11 Her husband trusts her without reserve,
and never has reason to regret it.
12 Never spiteful, she treats him generously
all her life long.
13 She shops around for the best yarns and cottons,
and enjoys knitting and sewing.
14 She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places
and brings back exotic surprises.
15 She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast
for her family and organizing her day.
16 She looks over a field and buys it,
then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.
17 First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
18 She senses the worth of her work,
is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
19 She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
diligent in homemaking.
20 She’s quick to assist anyone in need,
reaches out to help the poor.
21 She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows;
their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.
22 She makes her own clothing,
and dresses in colorful linens and silks.
23 Her husband is greatly respected
when he deliberates with the city fathers.
24 She designs gowns and sells them,
brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops.
25 Her clothes are well-made and elegant,
and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.
26 When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,
and she always says it kindly.
27 She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,
and keeps them all busy and productive.
28 Her children respect and bless her;
her husband joins in with words of praise:
29 “Many women have done wonderful things,
but you’ve outclassed them all!”
30 Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.
The woman to be admired and praised
is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.
31 Give her everything she deserves!
Festoon her life with praises!”
My encouragement this evening is that God loves it when family members love one another, work together and demonstrate Christian faith and values to the world. My prayer is that we can look at the Bush family as a symbol of family unity and strive to leave our own marks on the world as they have done. Well done, Mrs. Bush, you good and faithful servant! May you eternally rest in peace! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…