The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Jackie Kennedy’s grief

A couple weeks back, I posted about Archbishop Philip Hannan’s new memoir. Now, excerpts are trickling out. The bishop who delivered the eulogy at John F. Kennedy’s funeral is sharing some details that have never been revealed before — including a glimpse at Jacqueline Kennedy’s own private grief:

In “The Archbishop Wore Combat Boots,” Hannan publishes a handwritten personal note addressed to him from an anguished young widow less than a month after her husband’s death.


hannan-jackie-funeraljpg-82f9364bc4148f33_large.jpgHannan, a young auxiliary bishop in Washington, D.C., by then had already delivered Kennedy’s eulogy, at Jackie Kennedy’s request. Ten days later he had presided over a second Kennedy interment at Arlington National Cemetery, in which she quietly re-buried two of their children next to her husband, a daughter stillborn in 1956 and their son, Patrick, who had lived only three days after his birth four months before the assassination.


“If only I could believe that he could look down and see how he is missed and how nobody will ever be the same without him,” Kennedy wrote of her husband on Dec. 20, 1963, a few days after the re-interment of the children.

“But I haven’t believed in the child’s vision of heaven for a long time. There is no way now to commune with him. It will be so long before I am dead and even then I don’t know if I will be reunited with him….

“Please forgive all this — and please don’t try to convince me just yet — I shouldn’t be writing this way,” she concludes.

Hannan said he included the Kennedy note “after much soul-searching” to contest the post-Camelot view that the president’s infidelities had made their union a loveless marriage of convenience.


Hannan believes “theirs was a relationship grounded in deep, emotional conviction until the very end.”

Moreover, Hannan says, it is “one of the greatest regrets of my priesthood” that he did not reach out to Kennedy on a sustained basis in the weeks and months after the assassination.

Check out more at the link.

Comments read comments(5)
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Paula Gonzales Rohrbacher

posted June 15, 2010 at 10:12 am

Grief upon grief, to lose your husband so soon after losing a child. Poor thing. She is with them now.

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Bill McG

posted June 15, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Thanks Greg; I thought the love part was very interesting; also the doubt part. Not to be a pain about things, but I think the church often pays too little attention to doubt. While there must be many Catholics who don’t doubt at all, others (no doubt!) do. Perhaps especially when it comes to the nitty gritty of death, of others or our own. Is doubt, or questioning and even debate, welcome enough? I see that Jackie seemed a little embarrassed or reluctant to bring the matter up. And evidently she didnt get much response even from a well-intentioned cleric.

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posted June 15, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Mrs. Kennedy had every reason to doubt her faith.
I find it interesting that Hannan thought that the Kennedy marriage was “grounded in deep emotional conviction until the very end.” I have no doubt that Mrs. Kennedy loved him, but to be honest….how could John Kennedy be emotionally attached to her, given the many times he cheated on her. I’m sure she knew about it, how could she be innocent in that knowledge. That had to hurt her. That by itself would be reason to doubt one’s faith. IMO, John Kennedy’s “deep emotional conviction” wasn’t there….or he wouldn’t have cheated like he did.

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espe marie villasaenz

posted June 18, 2010 at 11:15 pm

The grief upon grief that the Kennedy family went through is beyond comprehension but also the profound grief that Mrs Jacqueline Kennedy experienced.
I hope and pray that she is reunited with all her children that passed away in Our Lord’s heavenly arms.

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