JFK Assassination, One Girl’s Grief

You don’t have to be a history buff to know that Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (commonly referred to as JFK).  The magazine stands at the grocery check-out counter are filled with commemorative editions of that painful time in American history.  Television programs are airing with their historical accounts as well.

One of many magazines and books I've collected about JFK over the years, 1988.

One of many magazines and books I’ve collected about JFK over the years, 1988.

50 Years Ago in Dallas

It was a day that changed America; maybe not much different than the events of 9-11 are for this generation.  Kennedy’s assassination also marked the loss of a sense of safety and security in our lives.  It was a time when Americans came face to face with evil in our country—the first signs of terrorism on our soil, so to speak.

The assassination of JFK sent shock and grief into our nation and the world.  All eyes turned to America.  In 1963, television news wasn’t the 24/7 force that it is today.  It was in its infancy stages.  In fact, the first televised presidential debates were held between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon in 1960.

For four days in our nation’s history, November 22-25, 1963, people were glued to their television sets.  We watched clips of the unfolding of the story: the President’s body flying back to Washington DC, people filing past his body lying in state at the U.S. Capitol, the horse-drawn carriage of the flag-draped coffin slowly proceeding to Arlington National cemetery.

JFK, Jr. models courage and honor at the tender young age of 3 years old.

JFK, Jr. models courage and honor at the tender young age of 3 years old.

In the midst of this sorrow, we also watched the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald, the suspected assassin of JFK, by Jack Ruby on live television.  Then there was the emblazoned image of little 3-year old John F. Kennedy, Jr., saluting the coffin as it passed by in front of him.  It was definitely a grief that shook our nation.

50 Years Ago in Seattle

What if that day was also the much anticipated birthday of a bubbly 4-year old girl?  Maybe the grief of the nation was also the grief that shook this young girl who desperately desired and wanted the attention and love of her own parents.  Instead her wants and desires were overshadowed by the grief of our nation.

Kennedy's body lies in state--a grief that shook the nation.

Kennedy’s body lies in state–a grief that shook the nation.

What if the disappointments that surfaced on that day for that little girl went on to fuel and magnify other losses, and the belief that she was unimportant and unloved?  What if a few years later, that same little girl, watches as her mother is taken away after suffering a nervous breakdown?

What if she keeps longing for answers to what happened and why, but she doesn’t get resolution?  These are sad things to think about, for sure.  I know because that little girl was me.

Unanswered Questions?

I, like the rest of the world, will probably never know the real answer or motives behind what happened 50 years ago in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.  Yet as my 54th birthday quickly approaches, I’m getting answers to some questions that my 4-year old Ardis has been longing to know.  It is a gift from above to finally get more clarity on my life and move forward with it.

Eternal flame and burial site of President and Mrs. Kennedy, Arlington Cemetery

Eternal flame and burial site of President and Mrs. Kennedy, Arlington Cemetery

So I look at the passing of another year’s reminder of the assassination of JFK through a different lens.  It is through the lens of someone who carries 11-22 as a joyful marker of her birth, while also still processing the reminders of a painful childhood.  I’m grateful that the Lord is giving me the ability to hold both of those realities in the palm of my hand and know that He is turning my healing into hope.

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3 Comments

  1. My mother was 14 when JFK was killed, and it affected her deeply. I grew up watching all kinds of documentaries and reading books about the assassination because she was so interested in learning more about it. So, I became interested sort of by default. I wish she was still here because I know she would have scooped up all of those commemorative magazines at the grocery store and we’d be watching all the TV specials together.

    Also, I know what it’s like to have a birthday on a horrific date: my birthday is September 11th. I turned 20 on 9/11/01, and although it’s so long ago now, I still have a hard time feeling celebratory on a day when so many others are grieving.

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    • Like your mother I have a collection of Kennedy memorabilia. I was always intrigued by it. My heart ached when JFK, Jr.’s life was tragically cut short as well. Politics aside, the Kennedy family has dealt with an unfathomable amount of sorrow.

      As I wrote my post, I thought about what it would be like to have a birthday on 9-11. That would be very difficult. Thankfully you were a young adult at the time. I hope you can learn to more fully celebrate your birth on 9-11 or another date of your choosing. You are worth it.

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    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

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