George H.W. and his late wife Barbara have enjoyed a long life of political success, but it has not been without personal tragedy. In October 1953, they lost their young daughter, Robin, to Leukemia. Back then, this was a fatal diagnosis.
“She said, ‘You don’t do anything. She’s going to die,” Barbara Bush recalled in a past interview, as reported by USA Today. “He said, ‘My advice is to take her home, love her. In about two weeks, she’ll be gone.” But the tenacious Bushes were not going to give up that easily. They transported their daughter across the country for various treatments, in the overarching hope that she would be cured and live a long life.
Robin underwent Blood transfusions and excruciating bone marrow tests in an effort to treat her condition. But despite their best efforts, Robin died just a couple of months before her fourth birthday.
“I was combing her hair and holding her hand,” Mrs. Bush recalled. “I saw that little body, I saw her spirit go.”
Barbara talked more of this dreadfully painful time in her memoir, explaining that despite the awful experience of watching your own child pass away, God was beside them throughout the whole ordeal:
“Eventually the medicine that was controlling the leukemia caused other terrible problems,” she wrote. “We called George, and by the time he got there after flying all night, our baby was in a coma. Her death was very peaceful. One minute she was there, and the next she was gone. I truly felt her soul go out of that beautiful little body. For one last time I combed her hair, and we held our precious little girl. I never felt the presence of God more strongly than at that moment.”
Barbara’s granddaughter and daughter of former President George W. Bush, Jenna Bush Hager, shared a moving cartoon of her “Gans” reuniting with her precious Robin at the gates of heaven. “Someone sent this to me—I don’t know the artist but I love her. Miss you Gans,” she wrote on Facebook April 18. The post has been shared over 50,000 times.
The illustrator behind this emotive cartoon is the renowned cartoonist Marshall Ramsey. He has been a long-time admirer of the Bush family.
“I began my cartooning career at the University of Tennessee during the Bush Administration,” he told ABC11. “So, I felt an attachment in a weird way. I’ve always admired her for her candor, self-esteem, toughness, and maternal protectiveness. I’m sure she wouldn’t have liked many of the cartoons I’ve drawn about her husband and son. But she reminded me of my own grandmother.”
Ramsey explained how the cartoon came to fruition following the news of Barbara’s passing.
“I sat down in the morning, I thought about her life, all the things she is famous for (her wit, her toughness, her candor, and protectiveness) and was thinking how I could capture her life in an image,” he said. “Then I thought about her as a mother and a story I had read recently about her and the president losing a child. I have three healthy boys but have had friends who have lost kids and know how devastating that is. No parent should ever lose a child. So, the idea of a reunion with Robin came to mind. I quickly sketched the idea I came up with and a couple other ones to pitch to my editor.”
When Bush Hager posted Ramsey’s cartoon to her social media accounts, he immediately sent her a message, offering his personal condolences.
“Glad you like it — that means a lot to me. Your grandmother was like our grandmother,” Ramsey wrote. “My heart is going out to you and your whole family today. What a special lady she was and what an awesome legacy she left behind. God bless you.”
“The cartoon has taken on a beautiful life of it’s own,” he Ramsey continued. “I’ve been receiving e-mails and messages from dozens of parents who have lost children about how the cartoon brought them hope that they’d see their child again and what that reunion would be like. I can’t ask for much more than that.”
After speaking with the Bush family in private, Ramsey reportedly offered the Bush family the original cartoon as a gift. Wow.