A basic premise of yoga spiritual teaching is that everything which life brings us can be used as a lesson for greater growth and evolution. An inspiring example of that comes from the lives of George and Barbara Bush. In his book, “41: A Portrait of My Father” George W. Bush writes about a time in the life of his parents – former President George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush – when their 3 year-old daughter died from childhood cancer in 1953. Here are his observations about how his parents dealt with this tragic loss.
* They switched roles after the death. While Robin was hospitalized and being treated for cancer, it was Barbara who was the “strong one” remaining at her daughter’s side” almost every waking hour...playing with her, reading to her, and trying to keep her spirits high.” In contrast, Mr. Bush was a “whirlwind of activity”. He met with doctors, checked results, and researched treatment options. “He raced out of the house early in the morning, stopped at church to pray for Robin, and then threw himself into his work.”
After Robin’s death on October 11, 1953, their roles switched. “My father became the strong one, dealing with funeral planning and logistics” Mr. Bush writes. The couple donated their daughter’s body for medical research when doctors suggested it saying “they could learn from studying her disease.” George and Barbara wanted Robin’s death to be of benefit for other suffering children. Childhood cancer became a lifelong cause for the parents. Today, the childhood cancer clinic at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center bears the name of their daughter. After so many months of “staying strong” for her daughter, Barbara’s system weakened and “she suffered bouts of depression that would plague her periodically. At twenty-eight years old, her dark brown hair started to turn white.”
* The loss of their daughter brought them closer together. George found creative ways to help lift Barbara’s spirits. “He planned visits with friends and gently helped my mother to move forward with life,” Mr. Bush recalls. “Instead of focusing on Robin’s loss, they gave thanks for the years they were able to spend with her. Robin’s death did not drive my parents apart unlike many couples who find their relationships broken after losing a child. In their case, the shared pain brought them together and their marriage emerged stronger. When they needed each other most, they were both willing to go three-quarters of the way.”