Fifty years ago today, I was all of 17-months old.
Too young, really, to understand the horrific event that took place on this day - November 22, 1963. The day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while traveling in Dallas, Texas.
My parents were 21 years old…both too young, as well, to comprehend what had happened. In an attempt to communicate her feelings to me, my mother had presence of mind to pen this letter to me…handwritten in the back cover of my baby book:
"November 23rd, 1963
As I sit here writing this to you, I am silently thanking God that you are so young, so pure, and so lovely and you do not feel any of the tragedy and sorrow that your father and I, and the whole world, feel today.
Yesterday, our beloved President of the United States, John Fitzpatrick Kennedy, was shot down and killed by one Lee Oswald, although his guilt has not yet been proved.
For the past 34 hours we have sat in shock and disbelief as the newspapers, radios, and television have repeated the tragic news. Could it? Can this be true? Not in America??!! This is a halfway-civilized country. But it is true. It has happened. And in America.
America - our wonderful, loved country. What has happened to us? What IS happening? What is going to happen to us? No one knows. No one can tell.
You ARE a part of America. You ARE an American citizen. You ARE an American. You have a long and, I pray, happy life ahead of you. I hope you are spared the tragedy and grief and sorrow that we all feel.
God giveth and God taketh away. Why - we don't know, and can never understand, but we have to accept.
Is this the way God intended us to live when He created this world? I do not believe so. But day after day we live in fear. What will tomorrow bring? We do not know. You, me, anyone, and everyone must live their lives the best we can.
We are all made different. Our hearts are different. You do as your heart tells you. No one can tell you how to live your life. I hope you choose the right path to live by. Your father and I, with God's help, will do our best to see and help you take that path.
The United States of America has a new President, Lyndon B. Johnson. He has a tremendous job ahead of him. We will all give him our support and trust.
The news of our President yesterday has left us all in shock. One man, in this wide, beautiful country, has shot down and killed our leader, as he was riding in a parade in Dallas, Texas. One man, in a country of 190 million, has caused us all grief. One man has wiped out another's life in one second that it took to pull the trigger. One man.
As I close, I again thank God that you are so young, so pure, and so lovely.
I will leave you with this thought that John F. Kennedy left with us: 'Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.'
America - the beautiful.
All my love,
I treasure this note…so poignant, so compassionate, written in a moment of intense shock and grief. It helps me relate to what she - and the entire country - was feeling those few, frantic days after the President's assassination.
Over the years, her words inspired me…and I've tried to live up to them…to choose the right path, and live my life the best way that I can.
I love you, Mom.