A few weeks ago, the president and many of his Secret Service agents made a significant sacrifice on behalf of another young American that went largely unnoticed by most of the nation. Did you catch it?
My friend and our 41st president, 89-year-old former President George H.W. Bush, united in solidarity with his own Secret Service detail by shaving their heads for 2-year-old Patrick – a son of one of Bush’s former agents who has leukemia and undergoing chemotherapy for it, according to USA Today.
According to a memo from Bush’s office, his Protective Division also launched a website at PatricksPals.org to help with Patrick’s medical bills. They are also spearheading the Inaugural Patrick’s Pals Motorcycle Benefit Run on Aug. 10 in Kennebunkport, Maine, which is a 50-mile motorcycle ride through the countryside with a lunch and silent auction to follow.
When Bush decided to lose his hair in support of young Patrick, many of us were reminded of Bush’s own precious and brave 3-year-old daughter, Robin, who died from leukemia 60 years ago this October.
The Star Telegram reported that George W. Bush was born first in 1946. Pauline Robinson Bush – known as Robin – was born second in 1949. She was diagnosed with leukemia right after brother Jeb was born in 1953.
Former first lady Barbara Bush recollected those tough times during an interview with her granddaughter, Jenna Bush Hager, for the ”Today” show.
After Robin’s prognosis, the Bushes were told there was nothing they could do. The doctors said, “You don’t do anything. She’s going to die. My advice is to take her home, love her. In about two weeks, she’ll be gone.”
Of course, the Bushes weren’t going to give up that easily. Instead, they opted for Robin’s aggressive treatment, including painful blood marrow tests, blood transfusions and chemotherapy. It wasn’t easy on Robin or her parents, but they all faced their fears and future courageously for Robin’s sake.
The Los Angeles Times explained, “In his 1987 biography, ‘Looking Forward,’ Bush said prayer helped him and his wife through Robin’s treatment: ‘Barbara and I sustained each other; but in the end, it was our faith that truly sustained us, as gradually but surely, Robin slipped away.’”
Though the treatment extended her life by roughly six more months, Robin went home to heaven on Oct. 11, 1953, two months before her fourth birthday.
Barbara shared, “I was combing her hair and holding her hand. I saw that little body. I saw her spirit go.”
Robin was initially buried in Greenwich, Conn., but her grave and its small headstone – reading simply, “Robin” – was ultimately laid to rest in a small family plot behind a serene and beautiful garden and pond area at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.
After Robin’s passing, the Bushes began the Bright Star Foundation, through which they raised funds and awareness about leukemia in Robin’s honor.
According to the American Cancer Society, leukemia is the most common cancer in children and teens, accounting for roughly one out of three cancers. It is a type of blood cancer that begins in the bone marrow and is associated with an abnormal increase of immature white blood cells.
Thanks to the hard work of countless souls and scientists over the decades, “Better technology, as well as cells and DNA preserved from patients treated in the 1960s, has improved outcomes for children. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital estimates the survival rate for the most common type of childhood leukemia has increased from 4 percent in 1962 to 94 percent today,” the Times again reported.
Now there’s a positive testimony for cancer research and advanced medical technology!
In honor of the Bushes’ valiant work through the years to fight and fundraise for leukemia and cancer research, the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston opened the Robin Bush Child and Adolescent Clinic in 2004.
You might not agree with every political action of former president George H.W. Bush, but you can’t deny that he and Mrs. Bush are first-class leaders, Americans, parents and grandparents. They belong to an elite class of integrity-filled national and global leaders who not only talk their talk but walk their walk. And for them to show solidarity with a 2-year-old leukemia patient at their ripe age is just one more example in a long lineage of a couple that is a stellar model for us all.
My wife, Gena, and I are honored to call the president and the former first lady our dear friends. They have helped a myriad of causes and children over the decades, including our own children’s foundation, KickStartKids.org.
And there’s no stopping them on the goodwill adventure train until they themselves pull up to heaven’s depot to be reunited with their dear little Robin.
Speak of great trips, I’ve actually heard that the former president desires again to skydive for his 90th birthday.
I jumped with him on his 80th birthday, but I don’t’ think he’s had too much success talking the Mrs. Bush into another jump since then.
Maybe he might increase his chances with Barbara if we were to go tandem?
Of course, an all-discerning Barbara won’t be swayed by a tough guy like me. And I doubt very highly anyway that the uber-qualified former president, who was also the head of the Central Intelligence Agency and bailed out of a fiery plane in World War II, needs my help in skydiving, even at 90 years young!
Mr. and Mrs. Bush, thank you for being the brightest among a thousand points of light – a supernova example and legacy in the fight for God, country and against diseases like leukemia.
Our lives, country and world are better off because of you.
(For more information about leukemia, its symptoms and treatments, visit Cancer.org.)