Remembering America's Grandmother - Kimberly Thompson

     It was a state funeral, yet completely personal and somehow intimate. As a Houston native, I can testify that the city of Houston loved Barbara Pierce Bush – my social media feeds are full of tributes from friends and family that still live there. Reports are that there’s been a surge in the sale of pearl necklaces, and that the city produced funeral volunteers far in excess of the 1500 mourners expected for the service. Considering that we Texans are suspicious of Yankees as a matter of principle, it’s a tribute to who Barbara Bush was that she was embraced so thoroughly in her adopted city and state, despite being a New England transplant that split her time between Houston and Kennebunkport, Maine right up to the end of her life.

      Many Americans thought of Barbara Bush as America’s grandmother, in large part because she embraced being the country’s matriarch. Legend has it that her hair turned white overnight after the death of her daughter Robin back in 1953, when Barbara was only 28, and that it was in Robin’s memory that she never colored it. Yet she somehow retained her joy in living, and described even her time in the White House as a happy time. She was well known as the bulwark of her family, and as a woman with high standards and a quick wit. She was passionate about bringing literacy to everyone, and believed it to be the gateway to the American dream.

     The moment in the funeral that I found most moving was when her first granddaughter came to the lectern to read Scripture, and her voice broke. It was obvious to me that, at age 92, Barbara Bush continued to be an important and relevant part of the lives of her family and friends. She had not, as too often happens as people age, withdrawn into a small and constricted space. She has left a hole in the lives of these young people. I was further moved as the rest of her granddaughters shared the reading of Proverbs 31: 10-31. Several of their voices also broke at particularly poignant places in the text.

“An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
She looks for wool and flax
And works with her hands in delight.
She is like merchant ships;
She brings her food from afar.
She rises also while it is still night
And gives food to her household
And portions to her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it;
From her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She girds herself with strength
And makes her arms strong.
She senses that her gain is good;
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hands grasp the spindle.
She extends her hand to the poor,
And she stretches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of the snow for her household,
For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them.
And supplies belts to the tradesmen.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying;
Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates.”

     Even considering the numerous eulogies and the gorgeous music (that included many hymns and choral pieces that I’ve sung all my life), the next most moving moment to me was seeing her grandsons, as her pallbearers, grasp the handles of her casket. She was so loved – by Houston, her adopted state, and the nation, but especially by her husband, her children and her grandchildren. She had the almost singular distinction of being the wife of one president and the mother of another one, yet her most profound legacy is this large, close family (she apparently disliked the term “dynasty”) that is following her and her husband’s examples of public service.

      At the end, politics doesn’t matter. Who got the positions, the appointments, the awards, and the recognition doesn’t matter. As her granddaughter and namesake read from II Corinthians 4: 18 at the close of the service,

“… the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

May America’s grandmother rest in peace.


I am Dr. Kimberly Thompson, a licensed psychologist that works exclusively with women and their children, from pregnancy and postpartum through the stress of the empty nest. In addition to my professional credentials, I am a wife, mother, and grandmother. If you live within driving distance of Lubbock, Texas, you can work with me in-person. If you live elsewhere in Texas, you can work with me online. Call the office at (806) 224-0200 during regular business hours, or send a secure message anytime. Find my book, Perfect Mothers Get Depressed, at Praeclarus Press or Amazon. Subscribe to my website to receive newsletters and blog updates.