Monday, July 28, 2014

November 24, 1963 The Weeping Heaven, The Greater Sorrow and The Shining Sun

 Dear Mother & Daddy,

"I don't know how to start this for I can't think of much except the terrible thing that happened yesterday.  It was an awful day--so gray and the rain poured all afternoon and evening as if heaven was weeping for President Kennedy.

How can a human being hate so much that it makes him do such a thing?  If Kennedy had been a cruel, wicked man maybe we could understand a little.  But he was such a good man and I believe he honestly tried, with all his heart, even if it would hurt him politically, to lead our U.S. to the greatness he mentioned in his inaugural address.

I can remember when Roosevelt died and how we needed him and how terrible I felt then.  But that time couldn't compare to today.  Kennedy was so young and brilliant and we need brilliant leaders. We have been cheated.  I feel great pity for the murderer but I feel greater pity for his wife and mother.  They have a greater sorrow to bear than even Mrs. Kennedy. She has the world to help her bear her grief.

The University will have a memorial service Monday but no classes.

We will have Thanksgiving by ourselves, I guess.  Things will probably be very quiet.

I'm glad Daddy feels better and hope he stays that way.  We are all fine.

I'm sorry this is such a gloomy letter. The sun always shines sometime after a cloudy day though, and maybe next week we will all feel better."

                      Lots of love,


This is the insert in the program, pictured at the top

NOTES:  We have all heard it said that for those who were old enough to remember, we know where we were and what we were doing on the day that JFK was assassinated.   While I remember the circumstances very clearly, what has stayed with me and made the biggest impact was the grief I observed in my parents.  It would be the first time I had ever seen them cry.

Our mom had a large collection of JFK memorabilia, part of which was given to her by friends who were active in democratic politics, and some collected from the time of the election, throughout his presidency and for the months following the assassination.  In the fall of 1992, she gave me part of the collection to share with students at the school where I was working.  I took the items to school on Friday, Nov. 20, planning to display them on Monday.  In the early morning hours on November 22, the school suffered a devastating fire and the items were all destroyed.  It felt like a terrible loss. Thankfully, she hadn't given me all of the collection.  Pictured in this post and some of the next posts are some of the saved items.

Many readers have asked if I have any of the letters my grandmother wrote in response to Mom's letters.  Mom saved only one, and it is the letter written on November 26, 1963.  (See tomorrow's post)

Cover of the program


  1. A beautiful tribute and post Ann, thank you.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed this post. It's one of my favorite letters, and one of the simplest written but with great thought.

  3. I had forgotten that his death was so close to Thanksgiving. As a child of 9 when it happened I can only remember now that everyone, everywhere you went had a look of great sadness.
    Our teacher would not tell us what happened, simply told us we were to sit at our desk and pray for the souls of the faithful departed. (Catholic School) that something terrible had happened to the country and our parents would talk to us when we got home.
    I can not tell you the panic it instilled in that class of children. When she left the room there were whispers and tears, fears of Germans taking over the country (terrible as imagined by 9 year olds) It must have been close to the end of the day, because I don't remember being there long after that.
    When I finally could ask my mother what had happened, and she told us,(my other siblings and I) I was so relieved! I simply could not understand the secrecy over someone we didn't know personally.
    Thank you Ann for this touching tribute to this great man. His life was/is much more appreciated as I got older.

    1. No doubt your teacher was grief-stricken herself and unfortunately, could not muster her good judgment in addressing the situation with the class. What a terrible approach! Nine year olds would have been capable of managing the basic details until they got home. I can only imagine the relief you felt later.

      I am glad the letter had meaning for you and I'm so glad to have your insightful comments here. Thank you so much.

  4. His death made an impact everywhere. I remember when we heard it over here in England it was a Friday night. It was almost unbelievable.


I welcome your comments!