Published on people.com
When George H. W. Bush was a 20-year-old Navy pilot serving in World War II, he spent eight long months apart from the love of his life — fiancée Barbara Pierce. It was 1944. “I arrived Christmas Eve,” Bush later remembered of his holiday homecoming. “There were tears, laughs, hugs, joy … No reunion could have been scripted more perfectly.”
Now, 74 years later, as the family that George and Barbara Bush built together prepares to lay him to rest on Thursday — just shy of eight months after his wife’s death in April—her namesake granddaughter, Barbara Pierce Bush, thinks she knows why the 94-year-old former president finally let go.
“He’d never spent a Christmas without my grandmother,” Barbara, 37, tells PEOPLE in an emotional interview for the new issue. “He was ready to be with her again. He never said it, but my thought is that he wanted to be with her for the holiday.”