She married young during the World War II era, living on a shoestring in the early days of her husband's career. His military service was a source of pride. They lived in several cities far from her childhood home. Together they raised a large family and delighted in their children. While her spouse pursued his important work and rose to various leadership positions, she was content to take a supportive role. A family retreat on the water was a gathering place for fun and fellowship. A series of beloved family pets were her companions. She sorrowed over a child's fatal illness and intensely grieved the loss. Her Christian faith remained strong throughout the inevitable trials of life. She knew many people, loved to entertain, and put a high value on her closest friendships. Baseball was her favorite professional sport. She was no-nonsense, had a great sense of humor throughout life and rarely complained. A rapidly expanding legacy of grandchildren and great-grandchildren was her greatest joy. Witnessing the slow decline in her husband's health was a painful reality after decades of a happy marriage. This exceptional woman, who died in her early nineties, valued honesty, punctuality, good manners, hospitality, following the rules, and being polite. This woman was my mother, Barbara Ann (Lake) Baehren.
When Barbara Pierce Bush, the wife and mother of Presidents, died earlier this week, I began to see parallels between her life and my mother's. They had both lived through scarcities of the Depression and saw the enormous human cost of World War II. Both women valued family above all and supported their husbands as their careers advanced. While the life of Mrs. Bush played out on the national and international stage, my mother's took place in Toledo, Ohio as the wife of a pediatrician and leader in the community. Mrs. Bush lost her daughter Robin to leukemia at age three, while my younger brother Peter died of pancreatic cancer at age 54. Barbara Bush was known to her family as "The Enforcer" while my mother was often called the "Mother Superior."
As I listened to the many eulogies given during the funeral of Barbara Bush, I heard so many familiar themes. Discipline, hard work, doing for others, not complaining, self-sacrifice and love of family - these were the values of the greatest generation and of these two women, each exceptional in their own way.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.