Tag Archives: C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis, Jack Kennedy and Me

47 years ago today the world lost two men who would posthumously have a great impact on me. One created a world in which I found great comfort as a teenager and young adult and the other, well I sort of made up a world for him.

I know that Jack Kennedy did a lot of good, had some wonderful ideas and was a much-loved President, but to me he was something other than that. I remember a coloring book I had when I was very young. It was of the First Family and had drawings of Caroline and her pony and Caroline and her younger brother, “John-John” in the White House gardens. The book probably also had drawings of Jack and Jacqueline Kennedy playing with their children. I remember feeling drawn to the coloring book and often made up stories that put myself inside the pages with the Kennedy children. I suppose the fact that JFK was the first president I remember had something to do with it, but he represented all leadership for me — so when the principal visited my kindergarten class on the first day of school, I thought he was our President. I thought of him as the father figure for the country — even the world.

Years later I learned that the Kennedys lost a baby girl the very day I was born and I often mused that perhaps God had one soul left to give a family on August 23, 1956 and somehow my parents won the baby girl lottery. I wondered what it would have been like growing up as Caroline and John-John’s older sister.

Then, of course, is the cafe table in Heaven where Uncle Don and Jack Kennedy sit — another source of comfort for me, especially this year now that my dad has joined the table.

C. S. Lewis, of course, created Narnia — a world on which I obsessed for several years. When I first discovered Narnia I wanted to meet or write a letter to C. S. Lewis to thank him and was devastated to find out he’d died years before I discovered his works.

So, as usual, I think about these two men on this day — the on anniversary of their deaths.

John, Clive and Aldous

Of course, being of a certain age and all, I vividly remember where I was when I heard the news of John F. Kennedy’s assassination 45 years ago today. I think I was in second grade and on the way out the side door of the school. The door patrol asked if I heard the news — that the president was dead. I asked if he meant the old president, but he said, no — the current one — Kennedy. I don’t remember much after that except that there was no good television on for a while.

I also remember vividly where I was when I discovered that Clive Staples Lewis was dead. It was several years after the fact. I’d been wondering if he was still living  — I’d just read The Chronicles of Narnia and asked a few people if they knew. Then one afternoon I was going through some almanacs that somehow found their way into our house (I think they came with a set of books my mom ordered). One was for the year 1963. I looked at November 22, probably to see what the almanac said about Kennedy’s assassination and was shocked to see that Lewis died the same day as JFK. I know exactly where I sat — on the floor of my attic bedroom in front of the built-in bookshelves.

As for Aldous Huxley — I only recently learned that he died the same day as Kennedy and Lewis, but figured I’d include him anyway even though I don’t think I’ve read anything by him nor did I know his first name was Aldous. I always thought it was Adolf.

So, of the three, the death that ultimately impacted me the most was Lewis’ — but many years after it happened. I was too young, at the time, to appreciate what a death of a president meant. Learning that Lewis was gone when I’d only just discovered his works was a small tragedy in my life. I’d never get the chance to tell him how much his books meant to me.

So perhaps that was why I insisted, this summer, that we visit the city of his birth, drive past the house in which he lived as a child and touch the statue created in his honor.