What if he had lived?
Now that all these JFK 50th anniversary retrospectives are winding down that's the question that comes up.
What if John Kennedy had dodged that bullet in Dallas?
What if he had survived?
How would history have changed?
Would we have gotten so deeply involved in Vietnam?
Would his personal demons finally have come back to haunt him?
Many far smarter than I debate these issues.
I cannot help but ponder only this issue.
John Kennedy forever young.
Had he survived that day, and if he were even lucky to be alive this day he'd be 96 years old.
Chances are, given his own health problems he'd have never lived to such a ripe age.
But again, we'll never know.
This much I do know.
All those he knew, or most of them anyway, are dead.
His generation. His friends. Most of his staff.
The great equalizer in life has now claimed their lives too.
Such is the fate of time.
Invariably death catches us all.
But that misses the point much as it misses the point reading off the names of all those young boys who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor, and assume somehow life is squared now. Because all their buddies are with them now.
I remember some years back standing at the U.S.S. Arizona memorial, marking the resting place of the more than 1100 sailors and Marines killed that December day in 1941 and hearing a woman say, as if to a whole generation,
"They're all gone now. All of them."
The truth, of course, was these young men left a lot sooner.
The truth, of course, is JFK left this world a lot sooner.
That's what's different.
We all end up in the same place.
Those who die young are just robbed of a lot of stuff before they get to that place.
And I'm not here to talk about big events, even those they might have been able to control, had they lived.
Just the small events, the everyday stuff they were robbed of enjoying, because they died.
Like all the Christmases they never saw.
All the family barbecues they never held.
All their kids' baseball games they never coached.
The graduations they never attended.
The daughter who'd they never walk down the aisle.
The spouse they'd never share that trip of a lifetime.
Out of time. Out of life.
The markings of an aging, gone for the ages.
That's what I think about when I think about those who die young.
Whether soldiers in war.
Or innocent school children in Connecticut.
Or yes, a president, in his prime.
The birthday parties they never saw. The family gatherings they never reached.
That's what happens when life cuts you off.
You never get to see the living grow up.
Your family, your loved ones, your friends.
You might be ageless, but there's something sad about being robbed watching you and the world age.
I'll leave it to historians to figure what the world lost or didn't with JFK's passing.
I can't stop shaking my head.
Thinking of all those Thanksgivings and that one seat.