On December 5, 2018, Jenna Bush Hager spoke at her grandfather and former president George H.W. Bush's funeral. And in honor of her new book Everything Beautiful In Its Time — which shares beautiful stories and memories of her beloved grandparents — Jenna is reflecting on that day, her grandfather's life in politics and how she keeps his memory and the memory of her late grandmother Barbara Bush alive.
"I think back to that time, [my grandfather's] time, which was that he had friends all over, from both sides of the aisle that he loved, and he really believed in humility," Jenna tells Rach. "He believed that you give credit to others. Ego wasn't a thing for him. He was ambitious. He became president of the United States. You have to be ambitious for that. But he didn't believe in taking credit for things. So to sit and be part of that, to speak at my beloved grandfather's funeral and to look out and to see all of the people who worked with him from both sides there was really beautiful."
Following the funeral, Jenna and her family honored a dream George H.W. Bush had always had — taking a train to his burial site.
"And then to go down to Texas. And we took a train," she continues. "He always had a dream to take a train to the burial site. I think another former president, I think Truman, did that. And he read it in the history books and thought, 'Gosh, that would be so cool.' So we did it. And we took a train from Houston, Texas to College Station, Texas, where we buried him in his library and people were all lined up on the street."
"A lot of people have longed for those that are gone recently," Jenna adds. "I have just longed to just sit at a table — I can imagine it — with my grandfather on one side and my grandmother [Barbara Bush] on the other and debate and talk."
Luckily, Jenna has the many years of beautiful time spent together and handwritten letters to keep their memories alive.
"One of the things that I was just so grateful for is that I did get these many relationships with my grandparents," the TODAY co-anchor says. "I mean, I am so incredibly lucky that I got them into my thirties. So they got to see me as the little chubby third grader, who they needed to reprimand, and then later as the chubby teenager, who they also needed to reprimand. They got to watch me walk down the aisle. They got to meet my babies. I just feel so fortunate for that."
"One of the things that is the most precious to me, and I don't know if you've found this with your grandparents, is I have their letters," she adds. "I have all the letters my grandparents wrote me. And that generation wrote, because many of them were in World War II and it's how they communicated."