Sunday, November 23, 2008

Remembering special moments

Just as we all remember where we were and what we were doing on Sept. 11, 2001, those of us who were around Nov. 22, 1963, also remember exactly what we were doing and where we were when President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed 45 years ago yesterday.

I had been married four months, was attending college that day, and went up to my sorority in the dorm on campus for lunch. Everyone was glued to the television, and I asked why. The news was then relayed to me that Kennedy had just been shot in a Dallas motorcade and the world was waiting for news of his condition. Then the announcement by newscaster Walter Chronkite as he took of his glasses and solemnly told us the president was dead. The shock, the tears, the uncertainty of what would happen echoed around the world for a much beloved person. It was not the first assassination of a president, nor the last attempt on a future one, Ronald Reagan.

Camelot is what they used to call the Kennedy reign. We all reveled in it, wishing our lives were as perfect as theirs seemed for a time. But their Camelot turned out to be devastating as one of the Kennedy’s children died a few days after birth from illness, John was assassinated, Jacque died from cancer, and finally, John Jr. died in a plane crash with his fiance. Caroline is the only surviving member of that Kennedy family.

My mind then switches to the day my daughter died, the same shock, the same tears, the uncontrollable grief, the unbelievable reality that it had become personal for me. It is a day I will never forget either. I moved around in numbness because, of course, the accident did not seem real. Nothing would happen to my beautiful daughter, I thought. She was safe in the loving arms of her husband. For many, many months I was sure my daughter would knock on the door and surprised me with a visit as she had done many times before. It was a long time before I truly believed that I would never see her again.

This is true for many bereaved parents. It is inconceivable to most of us who have lost a child that the child is really gone. We keep things as they are for some time or forever: the clothes and any items identifying our child. We hope someone will tell us it was all a cruel joke. And when reality eventually sets in, it is almost like a second period of mourning.

It is then I realize I can also focus on all the good moments with my daughter: a first birthday party, her first steps, her first school day, her first award in school for writing or being on the debate team, her first car at 16, a special vacation we took together, her wedding day, all these things and more. Then my heart bursts with love and pleasure and happiness that I was able to share all these things with her. I know I will never forget them. I try to share them with others who care and remember her also.

For those of you who have family and friends to share Thanksgiving with this week, I wish you all peace, happiness and only good memories of loved ones who are no longer here but will always remain in our hearts and minds.

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