Monday, November 21, 2011

Make Gentle The Life of This World

Several of the wonderful people who write blogs have had loved ones die and they have written about their loss.  It's amazing to me how much their readers try to comfort and help just by typing words into a keyboard.  For my  part, I would like to share something with you that was written by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who is the oldest child of Robert Kennedy.   I am sure that everyone is familar with the Kennedy family and all the losses of the Kennedy family.   Her Aunt Kathleen, who was her namesake, died in a plane crash.  The oldest son,  Joe, died in World War II.  John F. Kennedy, our 35th president, was assassinated on November 22, 1963, a date that will be forever etched into the memories of all those who are able to remember that day.  Her own father was also killed in June 1968, as he was running for President.   So, here are the lessons that she felt she learned about how to console those who have suffered a loss...

"First, go to the funeral.  It's there that you see people, and that they see you.  It's there that you mingle with families, listen to them talk, and lend your full support.  Death opens an enormous hole in the heart.  A funeral service brings together those who can help fill that hole.

Second, call or write your friend.  It is remarkable how few people actually reach out in tough times. Perhaps they don't know what to say or they think the person would prefer to be left alone.  It is better to try and be rejected than to never try at all.

Third, never say, "You will get over it".  People rarely do.

The death of a loved one rips us apart, shakes us up, hurts terribly. So, my fourth tip is to embrace the person who suffers.  Make it clear in the letter or phone call to your friend or loved one that he or she is wonderful. The warm embrace or the freshly baked cookies do not replace the life. But they do say, "You are loved. You are cherished".

She also shared a note that her father gave her on the day that President Kennedy was buried and this is what it said,  

Dear Kathleen,
You seemed to understand that Jack died and was buried today. As the oldest of the Kennedy grandchildren, you have a particular responsibility to John (her cousin) and Joe (her brother).  Be kind to others and work for your country.

If you would like to read a good book about John F. Kennedy, please read this one: Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye: Memories of John Fitzgerald Kennedy by Kenneth P. O'Donnell.  The video at the top is the speech by Robert Kennedy which he gave the night that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.  This was given in Indianapolis and that night there were riots all over the country, but none were recorded in that city. This wasn't even a prepared speech, he just spoke from his heart.

And so too I am speaking from my heart and it is my hope that this post may help people who are trying to console in the loss of a loved one and to perhaps bring comfort to someone, to somehow "make gentle the life of this world".


  1. Kay, I've seen that for myself, and the advice I can give to people who want to comfort someone who has suffered a loss is quite similar to that described in your post. It really does not matter what people say or write; what matters is THAT they say or write anything to the bereft at all. There are no "right" or "wrong" words in writing a letter of consolation, and there is no right or wrong reaction to loss; grief is an individual process nobody, least of all the bearer of such grief, can foresee or plan. Therefore, do not expect anything from a grieving person, but give everything you feel you can in terms of time and support.

  2. I've watched History Channel's "The Kennedys" 8-part mini series last month and that was the time I got interested with the kennedys. I liked Robert better than Jack and I wished that he survived the assassination... :(

  3. Librarian,
    I did wonder what you would think of this and hoped that you comment on it. Thank you, once again, for your thoughtful view.

  4. Denise,
    Please read that book that I mentioned above,
    Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye:Memories of John Fitzgerald Kennedy by Kenneth P. O'Donnell. I think you will like him very much after reading that book. After giving that speech above, Robert was assassinated just two months later. It was a great loss, not just to this country but to the world, the same applies to his brother, John F. Kennedy.

  5. Greetings From Southern California

    Thanks for the book recommendation and the video.

    Take care and have a Happy Thanksgiving Day :-)

    Thanks for your recent visit to My Blog

  6. How very, very kind of you to think of those who are without this Thanksgiving; without someone who has gone.
    Bobby was 'my' Kennedy, just as Jack was my parents'. I still wonder how the country would have gone if he had lived and become our President. That sadness has gone into the younger generation now, too. It breaks my heart for that family.

  7. Hey Ron!
    I hope you will get to read the book. I'm sure you already knew the speech, but it is always good to hear beautiful words at any time.
    Thank you for your comment!

  8. Nan,
    I'm sure you will agree that Robert Kennedy's speech that night was a truly amazing thing, calling upon people's better nature and asking for compassion rather than revenge. I think it ranks up there with some of Abraham Lincoln's writings (and I think he wrote some of the best speeches and letters in this country.)
    This may have been a strange kind of a post, but it is what I wanted to say...hope that people can understand my way of thinking.