On March 21, 1962, President John F. Kennedy said: “‘There is always inequity in life. Some men are killed in a war, and some men are wounded, and some men never leave the country, and some men are stationed in the Antarctic, and some are stationed in San Francisco. It’s very hard in military or in personal life to assure complete equality. Life is unfair.’‘ (my emphasis)
At the time he said those words he couldn’t imagine that in 611 days he would suffer a great unfairness of being assassinated. Nor could he possible imagine the deaths and tragedies that would happen within his family that would make some suggest that there was a Kennedy Curse.
The Kennedy family is one of courage, athleticism, intelligence and charm imbued with the idea of public service. JFK’s grandfather, Honey Fitz, the son of poor Irish immigrants living in Boston’s North End, graduated from Boston Latin School and entered Harvard Medical School. He dropped out in his first year to support his family when his father died . At age 31 he ran as a Democrat and was elected to Congress. He served three terms. Later he became mayor of Boston. He started the family tradition of serving the nation.
I always liked this story Honey Fitz spun. He convinced President Grover Cleveland to veto an anti-immigration bill introduced by Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Massachusetts. Lodge coming upon him said: “You are an impudent young man. Do you think the Jews and Italians have any right in this country?” Fitgerald replied: “As much as your father or mine. It was only a difference of a few ships.”
Fitz’s oldest daughter Rose married Joseph Kennedy who served as ambassador to England. World War II brought the death of his oldest son a pilot in the Army Air Corps and almost the death of JFK who served in the Navy in the Pacific. After the assassination of JFK, Bobby Kennedy, RFK, was also murdered running for president. Then untimely death called upon the next generation when JFK’s only son died in a plane crash, another family member skiing, and one in the clutches of addiction. Nor would the great grandchildren of Joe and Rose be spared. How unfair that a family dedicated to education, helping others and public service has suffered so greatly
But far and away in my mind the cruelest and most heartrending tragedy is the recent loss of 40-year-old Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean and her 8-year-old son, Gideon. It bothers me enormously affecting me like few other deaths. I woke during the night thinking of the horror of a mother and her eight year old son being swept out to sea in an unstable canoe desperately trying to fight against the wind and tide: exhausting themselves as these forces of nature overtook them dragging them ever further from safety into the wilds of Chesapeake Bay. Imagining the desperation of the mother, the fears and the cries of her son, and the slowly rising knowledge that the canoe was no match for the wind and waves and their knowledge they were headed for their doom with no way to prevent it tears at my soul. Life may be unfair but the thought of their plight chills, angers and fills me with sadness and suggests something far beyond unfairness.
They started the day going to the vacant home of Maeve’s mother to protect and isolate themselves from Covid-19. They could spend time outside playing games knowing they were safe from the virus. But they weren’t. Had it not put out its evil hand they would never have been there.
An errant kick of the ball into the water, a quick decision to retrieve it, the ball like the one that a child chases into traffic, leading them from a quiet inlet to their demise.
Oh how sad!
May they Rest In Peace.