Deeply saddened by the President’s death, Ms. Garland closed her December pre-recorded program with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” At first, CBS thought it out of character and too political for the variety show, but it did go on. A producer of the program later remarked: “[It was] one of the great performances of all time. If you didn’t cry, you were dead.” This show is available on DVD, “Judy Garland: the Concert Years.”
Saturday, November 23rd
The state funeral was being planned in Washington, but Rose Kennedy had her own preparations to make: “I went to the morning devotions at the beautiful little church, St. Francis Xavier’s in Hyannis—where all four sons had served as altar boys—and stayed on for the first Mass of the day, to which Ted and Eunice came. I had called the pastor the night before and asked him to say this Mass for Jack. It was one of the first things I had thought to do” (380). After Mass, Ted and Eunice told their father, a stroke victim, what had happened to his son.
Monday, November 25: President Kennedy’s Funeral
Rose traveled to Washington while her husband remained at home with an old friend, Father John Cavanaugh, the former president of Notre Dame University, watching the ceremonies on television.
What was Mrs. Kennedy’s role on that day? “I did not walk with the others in the procession from the White House to the Cathedral because I felt queasy, quite unwell that morning. Nor did I take Communion at the Cathedral because I had already been to an early Mass and had received [Communion] then. I was at the graveside in Arlington, of course, for the final ceremonies. Afterward, with the others, I went to the White House to help express our family’s appreciation to the numerous head of state, other dignitaries, and many friends who had traveled from far places to pay respects . . . .” (381).
Like the funeral of Abraham Lincoln, President Kennedy’s had pomp and majesty. It was John Jr.’s third birthday.
A Daughter’s Tribute to Her Mother
If “the mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom,” [then] our mother is the finest teacher we ever had,” recalls Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the third Kennedy daughter. “She did everything nine times for the five girls and four boys in our family, and she made our home a school-room that far surpassed any formal classroom in the exciting quest for knowledge. She kept maps around the house to quiz us about geography. With her intriguing games and questions, she was forever stretching our minds, teaching us to care for others, taking us on picnics an day trips to swimming holes and historical sites alike, bringing us into conversations at the dinner table, transforming the daily headlines into new and stimulating adventures in understanding. She loved to read aloud to us, and some of our happiest memories are of her enchanting bedside stories. She was a marvelous piano player, and we loved to gather around her in the living room to sing while she played” (Foreword).
“The Anchor of the Family, Our Rock”
“She was also the quiet at the center of the storm, the anchor of the family, and the safe harbor where little ones could tow their capsized boats and set their sails again. For each of us, she has been the rock and foundation of our lives. She has shaped our dreams and goals, supported our public and private causes, and encouraged us in our service to others in return for the many blessings we have had. All her life, Mother has been a shining example of the love and faith that have always sustained her and that continue to sustain her” (Foreword).
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The training Mrs. Kennedy instilled in her children and her unquestioning strong belief made an impression that lasted. Despite some doubts about his faith, President Kennedy held on to his mother’s religious training. “One night when Dad was visiting the White House,” recalls Eunice, “it was late and he started into Jack’s bedroom to mention something he had just thought of. Then he stopped short and left without being noticed—because there was the President kneeling by his bed, saying his prayers” (144).
A Touch of Humor
One of many examples that reveal how active Mrs. Kennedy was in her son’s presidency concerns the following anecdote:
In 1961, Rose Kennedy had met Premier and Mrs. Khrushchev during a meeting in Vienna. Photographs had been taken, and Mrs. Kennedy wanted the Premier and President Kennedy to sign them. The Premier was first to sign and returned the photographs to Mrs. Kennedy who sent them on to her son with a note about her plan. She received the following letter from him:
“Dear Mother: If you are going to contact the heads of state, it might be a good idea to consult me or the State Department first, as your gesture might lead to international complications. Love, Jack”
Quipped Mother Rose: