Half a Century Later

CAMELOTToday, the world marks 50 years since that  traumatic event that forever branded my generation: John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Innocence died the day Camelot was destroyed and cynicism, growing stronger ever since, quickly replaced it.

Every Baby Boomer remembers where we were when we heard the news. Although I was only in second grade, my memory, like my contemporaries, is vivid. I was in bed at home, sick with a sore throat. I heard my mother scream, “Taryn, come down here! You have to see this!” As we watched the footage of Jackie wearing her pink pillbox hat in the back of that convertible, my mother told me I had to remember this day so I could tell my children and grandchildren. I don’t have children, and my granddaughters are too young, so I’m telling you! Kennedy03290905

Reading the news accounts this morning, I’m struck by the fact that the President’s murder occurred a mere three months after their newborn, Patrick, died. The baby lived for two days. I try to imagine how Jackie felt, and I can’t come close.

Throughout my life, I’ve identified with Caroline. She is one year younger than me, almost to the day. I tried to empathize with what it was like to grow up without a father, thrust into the international spotlight, and I can’t.

The last thing I’ll comment on about Kennedy’s death is that when I lived in Eastern Europe, I visited our Stint team in Minsk, Belarussia, formerly the USSR. (The Stinters are the wonderful college grads who came for 1-2 years to build the foundations for movements in strategic cities across the region.) The apartment that the girls rented had an infamous former resident. Marina Prusakova, later to become Mrs. Lee Harvey Oswald, had lived in that very space. Norman Mailer’s book entitled “Oswald’s Tale,” inscribed by the author, sat on the coffeetable. It was not under glass; it belonged in a museum. I held it in my hands.

I remember the chilling feeling as I held that book, realizing that I stood in the city where Oswald formulated his evil plans. His plans that changed my country.

Kennedy is not the only noteworthy person who died 50 years ago, on November 22, 1963. The other was C.S. Lewis. Although Lewis’s death was naturally eclipsed by a young president’s assassination, he was a brilliant author who has influenced countless souls for Christ. Through his writing, his words live on and continue to inspire. I will close with a quote from his book, Mere Christianity:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” 


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