November 22, 2013
As many of you must know~ today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the youngest man elected President of the United States~ and the only Roman Catholic to date to be elected.
When you grow up in a Catholic/ Democratic household it was not uncommon in the 70's to grow up in a household completely in awe of and enamored by The Camelot Era.
As most people of age at the time of the assassination~ my mother could distinctly recall where she was at the exact moment she learned that JFK had been assassinated. She told the story with such detail that I almost felt as if I **had been** there. My siblings and I grew up sort of in the shadow of Camelot. My mother loved and bordered on obsessed with this man, his life, his death and what it meant to the American people. And she raised at least one daughter who was equally so.
My mother often cried when she discussed certain parts of his life and his legacy.....and to this day~ so do I.
When I was a young girl (and all the way to his untimely and equally tragic death) I dreamed of someday marrying or at least **meeting** JFK Jr. Such a part of the tapestry of my life is this family I have never met. To this very day I am completely in awe of Caroline Kennedy. THIS woman has known some tragedies in her life......and yet she conducts herself with such grace~ and instead of reveling in or taking advantage of her 'gifted' upbringing and family fame~ she lives and raises her children quietly and with decorum. That my friends is strength in action.
When my mother told the story of how Jackie and JFK had survived both a little girl being stillborn and losing a son as the direct result of prematurity (later I would learn that Jackie had a miscarriage too)~ I felt such a connection~ such an overwhelming sense of empathy~ I cried. A LOT. Every. Single. Time.
Little did I know that these tragedies would later DIRECTLY impact my own life and children (I'll get back to that in a moment).
My mother talked of a time when our President was great and honorable. Later it would widely be speculated if he was great or if it were our country that was great at the time. And HIS honor has since been called into question many, many times and details of his behind the scenes 'philandering' have been widely publicized.
Even still~ the love and admiration for this man and THIS family and THIS political and romanticized dynasty remains in my heart. There are still times (a LOT of times) I am moved to tears by the imagery and memories of this family and this era.
Like when I visited his grave at Arlington National Cemetery..... the 'eternal flame' quite literally brought me to my knees.
Like when I visited baby Patrick Bouvier Kennedy's grave at Arlington National Cemetery and I collapsed in a pile of tears.
Like whenever I see that iconic picture of JFK Jr. saluting his father's casket.
Like whenever I see that iconic picture of Jackie crawling on the back of the car to pick up pieces of her husband's skull and brain seconds after watching her husband be shot multiple times.
Or the one where he is slumped in her lap.
Or the one where she is boarding the plane, pink dress blood stained~ blank stare on her face~ I see the numbness~ her display of the universal body language of grief and I remember that feeling all to well.
Like when I remember the desperate search for JFK Jr.'s body.
Or his, his wife's and sister-in-law's luggage and personal effects washing up on shore.
Or of their caskets being buried at sea.
Like when I see the picture of Caroline in her perfect dress clutching her mother's hand and putting on a brave face while practically the whole world watched her father's flag draped casket pass by.
Or when I see her speak~ with the same decorum and 'put together' confidence and beauty that her mother had.
Although I have never had the honor of meeting a single person from this larger than life family~ I empathize with them all the same and my own life has been directly affected by them.
My own mother will forever be young and beautiful in my minds eye~ as she too was taken far too soon.
My own father was slain with a bullet to the head. And he too remains young and handsome in my mind's eye.
At times I feel like most of my own life has been a series of tragedies to overcome.
My own son was born prematurely and died soon after birth.
I fully KNOW that if the President of the United States and his young beautiful wife had not delivered a son and lost him to (what in the day was) severe prematurity~ that the medical science of saving premature babies would most likely be nowhere near what it is today.
and THAT, that right there alone brings me to my knees.
Patrick Kennedy was born at just over 34 weeks gestation.....weighing in at (what would now be) a whopping 4# 10.5 ounces~ and yet he could not be saved. Today his early birth and medical condition would be rather 'routinely' treated in the NICU~ probably not even requiring a lengthy stay. Today he would be one of the largest babies in the NICU~ and face a minimum amount of sequella from his 34 gestational week delivery.
It is largely due to the advance of medical science that was spurned by Patrick's death that allowed my own daughter to be born at 24 weeks 3 days gestation, weighing 1.6 ounces~ and survive to tell the tale. She and millions of other babies who would once have not even been attempted to be saved.
The significance of these facts and ALL of the Kennedy's contributions to our great nation is not lost on me.
So today, in honor of them all and of my mother who planted the seeds of love and admiration for this family, I REMEMBER. I take time to reflect. I take time to be grateful for how they, who I never met, impacted my upbringing, my love of my country and my own very premature daughter.
To Caroline I would say I understand at least some of what your life filled with a great deal of tragedy feels like. I would say thank you for all that your family has done to shape and mold me into the person I am today.
Love, light and profound gratitude,