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Deep Pain, a Porch and a President

It was an election year, 1988. Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush was squaring off against Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. Vice President Bush made an early-September swing through Texas to raise money and votes. And one of his stops was our East Texas hometown of Tyler.  

In our naïveté, we called some friends with connections to learn the route of the motorcade. We thought it would be fun to sit in the car and watch the honorable procession as it traveled near our home.  

Our friends apologized, but for security reasons the route would not be disclosed. However, to our amazement, they invited us to meet the Vice President at a small gathering in a private home. Because Catie’s recent bone marrow transplant left her with a suppressed immune system, a screened-in side porch off the gorgeous old mansion was made available for her to meet Vice President Bush and avoid the crowd. 

We arrived and took our place on the porch. First to arrive were the bomb sniffing dogs – all clear. Then a few black sedans and a handful of Secret Service agents with wires running into their ears and bulges under their suitcoats. Then the motorcade arrived with staff, reporters, a medical team (with an ambulance), the Vice President, and of course, more Secret Service agents.  

A friendly member of Bush’s staff arrived and welcomed us. He explained the drill: we would be able to see the Vice President as he arrived, and if time allowed, he would come to the porch for a few pictures. We were a little awestruck but very excited as Bush exited his car, walked up the steps and into the house. We saw the whole entrance.  

Bush was a tall man, dignified but approachable, and dressed in a well-tailored business suit. Within minutes, he came onto the porch. He said hello to us, then dropped to his knees greeting Catie eye-to-eye. They chatted like old friends. I’m sure he was sincere when he said he wished he could stay longer, but he was needed inside. The photographer snapped several pictures, and our encounter concluded.   

Such a small gesture but such a massive impact. I learned a huge lesson from the person who would soon become the most powerful man in the world. Little gifts provide big blessings. His humility, grace, kindness, and care came from a sincere heart, but one that knew great pain.  

I post this on October 11 to honor Robin Bush, the three-year-old daughter of George and Barbara Bush who died from leukemia on this day in 1953. The day of our encounter with the Vice President in September, 1988 would have been almost exactly 35 years since George and Barbara said goodbye to Robin.  

Now, 35 years since Catie’s original diagnosis and 30 years since her death, his act of kindness continues to ripple through my life – and I hope yours as well. 

Dan Bolin


Refueling in Flight Ministries, Inc


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