Below is a quote from Jenna Hager Bush, speaking about her grandfather and his late daughter, Robin, who passed away from leukemia in 1953. This sweet little girl, like my Reese, was diagnosed at age 3. But Robin lived during a time that a little fighter didn’t have a fight to mount. Very little was known about this cancer of the blood in 1953, and really so much is still to be learned today. Like all leukemia moms, the story of Robin brings tears to my eyes. I remember the talk of Robin after Barbara’s death, on April 17, because the Bush parents called losing Robin their greatest sorrow. We were here in San Francisco, preparing for Reese’s transplant. I say a prayer and think of Robin and others who came before us as I celebrate Reese’s victory. I hope that Reese’s struggles advanced some knowledge that might help the next child, who by unlucky chance, has to mount this unimaginable fight. And win.
This brought me such comfort this morning. I had the opportunity to talk with my grandpa about the afterlife. This is what he said: He answered without any hesitation. “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.” And I started crying. I managed to choke out, “Well, why? What do you look forward to?” And he said, “Well, when I die, I’m going to be reunited with these people that I’ve lost.” And I asked who he hoped to see. He replied, I hope I see Robin, and I hope I see my mom. I haven’t yet figured it 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. And then he said, “I hope she’s the three-year-old.” Robin was the daughter this giant of a man lost years before to leukemia. The little girl he held tightly: who spoke the phrase I have heard Gampy repeat for my entire life, forever knitting Robin’s voice into the tightly woven fabric of our family: “I love you more than tongue can tell.”