Jackie Kennedy on living without John F Kennedy: “It is nearly a year since he has been gone” (1964)

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Jackie Kennedy remembers John F Kennedy a year after his death
Here’s a letter from Jackie Kennedy, plus photos of her with the kids, as she reflected on her still-new life after the death of her husband, President John F Kennedy.


It is nearly a year since he has been gone.

On so many days — his birthday, an anniversary, watching his children running to the sea — I have thought, “But this day last year was his last to see that.”

He was so full of love and life on all those days. He seems so vulnerable now, when you think that each one was a last time.

Soon the final day will come around again — as inexorably as it did last year. But expected this time. It will find some of us different people than we were a year ago.

Learning to accept what was unthinkable when he was alive, changes you. I don’t think there is any consolation. What was lost cannot be replaced.

Someone who loved President Kennedy, but who had never known him, wrote to me this winter: “The hero comes when he is needed. When our belief gets pale and weak, there comes a man out of that need who is shining — and everyone living reflects a little of that light — and stores some up against the time when he is gone.”

John F Kennedy's favorite photo - walking on the dunes

Now I think that I should have known that he was magic all along. I did know it — but I should have guessed it could not last.

I should have known that it was asking too much to dream that I might have grown old with him and see our children grow up together.

So now he is a legend, when he would have preferred to be a man. I must believe that he does not share our suffering now. I think for him — at least he will never know whatever sadness might have lain ahead.

He knew such a share of it in his life that it always made you so happy whenever you saw him enjoying himself. But now he will never know more — not age, nor stagnation, nor despair, nor crippling illness, nor loss of any more people he loved.

The sweet happy Kennedy family

His high noon kept all the freshness of the morning — and he died then, never knowing disillusionment.

“…he has gone
Among the radiant, ever venturing on,
Somewhere, with morning, as such spirits will.”

He is free and we must live. Those who love him most know that “the death you have dealt is more than the death which has swallowed you.”

– Jacqueline Kennedy


JFK memorial issue 1964

MORE: The assassination of President Kennedy: News reports, photos & more from when JFK was killed in Dallas (1963)

On JFK’s birthday, a family visit to Arlington

The scene could have been fashioned on canvas by a Renaissance master. The mother bowed her head. The children had long since learned that this was a quiet place.

The day would have been their father’s 47th birthday, which would have meant a party. Now Caroline and John-John were paying another call at the Arlington grave.

There Mrs Kennedy placed a simple spray of lilies of the valley. John-John wanted to leave something too, and Caroline helped him undo his present for his father, a tie clasp shaped like PT boat 109.

Jackie Kennedy and family after JFK death 1964 (2)

Jackie Kennedy and family after JFK death 1964 (3)

Jackie Kennedy and family after JFK death 1964 (4)

Jackie Kennedy and family after JFK death 1964 (1)

MORE: When JFK & Jackie got married: The elegant Bouvier-Kennedy wedding (1953)

06-12-1964 JFK birthday after his death

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