Even so, she was thinking of him — of all the great-grandchildren she would likely never meet — as she embroidered stockings to be “reserves” for the Bush children who grew up after she died in April 2018.
Hager, 37, told PEOPLE about the heartfelt surprise of the stockings in a recent at-home interview as she returned to co-hosting the Today show following her maternity leave. The happy, not-so-controlled chaos of her busy personal and professional lives follows a year of loss in the family.
“I found out I was pregnant the week after my grandfather died, and I lost my three living grandparents in one year,” Hager says. Former President George H. W. Bush died about six months after his wife, in November 2018. Hager’s maternal grandmother, Jenna Welch, died in May.
Son Hal, Hager says, is “the first baby that won’t get to meet these people that were such an important part of my life. But, I will say, and this is such a beautiful thing — my grandmother, my dad’s mom, needlepointed a lot of stockings, reserves, for great-grandchildren that would be after she died.”
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Hager says she knew her grandmother had been making some stockings, but “I didn’t know if there was enough for Hal.”
“She tirelessly worked,” Hager says. “And so my aunt just emailed me on Friday and said, ‘What address should I send Hal’s stocking to?’ “
“What a beautiful blessing and what a beautiful thing that she did so that all three of my kids will have made,” Hager continues, “[Hal] will never met her, but they’re so ingrained, I mean, literally in this case, in the fabric of our family — that he’ll have a stocking that his great-grandmother sewed.” (Joking about her own lack of needlepoint skills, Hager says, “Maybe I’ll go on Amazon and buy one before I die.”)
The Bush family’s elder generation lives on in other ways, too.
Hager tells PEOPLE: “I know that through my grandparents letters and their stories and the way that they raised us, he’ll get to know them.”