The stories and vignettes in this book represent the experiences and memories from World War II veteran H.J. Worthington. A first-time author at the age of 90, Mr. Worthington offers readers a personal journey through some of America’s most important moments in time.
Friday afternoon, November 23, 1963 the nation heard the news: President John F. Kennedy shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. All that day, Saturday, Sunday, and into the next week the event unfolded right before our eyes on our television screens.
I wrote the Kennedy memorial poem while watching the news coverage each day. It did not matter what your political connection. World War II was only 18 years back in the collective memory. We had lost a kindred spirit – a fellow warrior – in the cause that saved the world from a new Dark Age of barbarism in the 20th Century, and possibly beyond if we had not prevailed. Who knew? The raw emotional scar had healed over but was still tender to the touch of a lingering remembrance.
Robert Kennedy’s killing, less than 5 years after his brother’s, destroyed the possible promise of a bit more peaceful kingdom. Dream denied.
In Memoriam – John F. Kennedy
On that morning… an hour before his final ride
He spoke of his brother,
Who had gone before him to the war… and died.
And she…when accepting the roses of red,
Held them and kept them,
Til her husband was dead.
There he sat and smiled and waved,
All through the ride;
She at his side … holding the red roses,
When there from out the sunlit sky,
A killer bullet flashed and said:
“You must die”.
And so; one week before Thanksgiving,
Under the Texas Sky,
She saw him live and smile … and touch,
Red roses that would die.
There beneath that Texas sky,
Where the President is dead,
There cries and anguished people;
And some roses that are red.
Now the lonely vigil,
Of a nation’s grieving heart,
Returned to waiting Washington,
The requiem to start.
She did not leave his lifeless side,
When the Hand of God said “NOW”,
But pleading she touched God’s Hand,
And asked: “Please … keep him here … somehow”.
Through the soul-sick shrouded night,
The line of sorrow filed beneath the great Rotunda dome,
Where lies their young and fallen Chief,
Who now has journeyed home.
And on that morning,
When they came to bear him slow,
It was heard by all who watched and harked,
His muted whisper softly said:
“I am ready now … to go.”
They bore him from the solemn church,
His requiem was done,
And there his little boy saluted him,
And softly back across the hallowed air he whispered:
“Happy birthday … and farewell my son”.
And standing there; just six years old,
Was his little daughter brave,
No longer could she run and hug;
Or for him,
All her kisses save.
And there on the side of a hill that day,
She whispered her husband’s name.
She took a ray from the setting sun,
And lit their eternal flame.
…So now we truly ask ourselves,
What kind of man was he,
What killed our president of tender years,
Who loved the wind and sea.
A very few of you may say:
“The man is dead,”
What more is there to say,
The evil plan is naked here before us,
All the certain consequences light the way.
Let us here speak finally …
Let us quit our rhyme,
Let us raise our urgent sight,
Let us press our words to freer verse,
Let us set the record right.
Yes… he is dead.
His day is done,
His manuscript is closed.
But there remains the reason WHY,
The tragic, wasteful painful reason WHY?
The sure and true malignant residue of hate,
Unleashed like a famished phantom in our midst,
Struck down this man.
For he; like the tall Emancipator before him,
Had thrust upon him,
An overburdened share of relentless condemnation.
He was struck down,
Not for the way he prayed to his God;
But for the way he prayed to his fellow man.
His warm prayer;
His clear and poetic words of truth and justice,
Fell upon cold hearts and dead consciences;
And they were stirred to anger and fear and despair.
This was his sin,
And it was a sin against those who hate,
For any reason; and in any measure,
And hate triumphed;
And he was gone.
And what have we lost?
…We have lost the sight and voice,
Of little children in the marbled halls of state.
A generation has lost a warm and kindred mystic spirit,
Who lived and shared a dear nostalgia,
Of younger urgent times.
Gone is a sweet embrace of memories,
Of not too long ago.
We have lost the simplicity,
Of the natural boyishness,
Of a great man.
Some say that he had no emotion.
He WAS an emotion;
And we have lost him.
We have lost the smile of a truly beautiful woman.
We have lost a President.
We have lost our hearts.
Time will go on,
Memory will fade,
The years will pass,
Men will forget.
And the millions of words of eulogy …will,
After a while;
Languish and fade,
On the yellow pages of dusty volumes.
Those of us who now silently weep;
We, who cannot dispel the ache;
We know, that death is but a changing of life;
And we will find our solace and peace in knowing,
That we will see him and greet him,
One day again,
In the long forever of eternity.