Friday, November 22, 2013

A Letter to Jackie

Dear Jackie,

50 years ago today, your life was changed forever. Your dreams and plans were shattered and your faith was tested. The images from that day in Dallas are forever ingrained in the history books and in the hearts and minds of many Americans. This day is one that lives on in infamy, shrouded in mystery, pain, and grief. I can’t even imagine how you felt 50 years ago today, but I want to reflect on your bravery that day with 50 years of perspective.

Thank you for showing America how to grieve a devastating loss. Thank you for your grace and dignity. Thank you for your service as First Lady, and for honoring our country as such. Thank you for your bravery on that day in Dallas, and on every day of your life. Thank you for teaching us by example that tragedy does not mean the end of all happiness, but rather, tragedy presents an opportunity for growth and renewed strength. Thank you for marching behind the casket, even when the Secret Service tried to stop you, because it showed America and the world that violence and hate would not and could not win out over compassion and love.

On what is remembered as one of the darkest days in the twentieth century, you put your personal anguish, heartbreak, and fear aside and put your country first. You were a patriot and a heroine. You stood next to Lyndon Johnson for the swearing in on Air Force One. You refused to change out of your suit, which unnerved many, and you didn’t care. You took a shot with Kenny O’Donnell, Dave Powers, and the rest of the Irish Mafia around the coffin en route back to D.C. You and Bobby would not leave JFK’s side during the transition from plane to autopsy to Capital rotunda. America needed you on that day, and you were there for us, even though your heartbreak was greatest of all.

You were 34 years old with a three year old and a six year old, still grieving the loss of baby Patrick only three months before. Everybody would have understood if you were a basketcase, but you weren’t. You showed us that even on your darkest day, in your darkest hours, you can rise. You can deal. You can survive.

America loved you before Dallas, but we needed you after Dallas. You showed us that when one experiences unimaginable tragedy, rather than crumpling, it is possible to be strong and courageous.

50 years ago today, America lost its president, a young wife lost her husband, and hope was shaken around the world. Today, I mourn for President Kennedy’s young wife and honor your unwavering grace and strength. You taught America how to grieve through your example and helped restore our faith, even in your darkest hours. So thank you, Jackie, for your service to our country and for showing us that even the most unbearable tragedies cannot break indomitable spirits. You gave us faith when we questioned the goodness of humanity.

You are my heroine.

For Dallas, and so many other things, I thank you.