I just finished reading a book entitled “Dear Mrs. Kennedy” which was crafted by the late Jay Mulvaney and a long time friend of mine named Paul DeAngelis. The book is a carefully edited collection of letters written to Jacqueline Kennedy in response to the November 22, 1963 assasination of JFK. Just when you thought that every possible angle into the Kennedy assasination in particular and Camelot in general had been explored, this book brings a fresh perspective.
There’s rich food for thought here concerning politics and history, but I want to focus on the spiritual dimensions of the work which touched me. At its’ heart, this book is an extended meditation on the nature of grief – the need for going through the process, the very personal and highly variable ways people experience it, the unaswerable questions it raises and, most importantly, the communal dimension of all deep grief.
The community that was forged by the assasination transcended political differences – something so hopeful to read in our polarized times. This became particular clear to me as I read a letter by Sr. M.E. Micheal, a teacher at Union Catholic HS in Scotch Plains New Jersey, who praised Jacqueline Kennedy and her husband effusively, sometimes reaching Biblical proportions. Her letter conclusdes with a P.S.: “None of the above is the sentimental effusion of a ‘fan’. I never voted for your husband.”
Even the very young were heard from in this virtual community. A young boy from Poland wrote to invite John-John and Carolyn over for a visit. “We will play with them so that they will be less sad.”, he writes.
I’ve always thought that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone but after reading this book I’m beginning to change my mind. Not about the assasination itself – there is sufficient evidence from both before and after the assasination of Oswald’s capability of using violent means to accomplish his irrational objectives. Yet somewhere in his twisted mind he had been poisoned by the Original Sin that remains a deep stain within our national soul – the Racism bred by centuries of slavery. The level of hatred towards African-Americans brought close to the surface by the Civil Rights movement tha Kennedy was instrumental in promoting so poisoned the waters of American life that it seems as if it was only a mater of time before they would be ingested by a lunatic with the violent tendencies possessed by Lee Harvey Oswald.
Finally, the book gives clear voice to that sense that with the assisination of President Kennedy something vital was taken away from us as a people. Have we yet recovered that “assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen (Hb 11:1)” that we once had?
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgirm)
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What a rich and marvelous resource coming out of the Diocese of Cincinnati. I’ve just begun to explore it.