John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th president of the United States of America, was shot on November 22nd, 1963, as he rode next to his wife, Jackie, in the back seat of an open-topped limousine through the streets of Dallas, Texas. I was three years old. I remember this day. It is, in fact, my earliest childhood memory, and even now writing about it brings up intense emotions and tears.
Like many children too young to be in school during this time in American history, I was home with my mother. We had a TV; maybe it was on, maybe she got a call and turned it on, I don’t remember which. What I do remember is my mother standing in the doorway to the kitchen, something in her hand, looking past me to the TV in the living room where I was playing on the floor. And I remember – actually, my body remembers, the indescribable shock and horror in the room at the awful sight of President Kennedy literally having his head blown apart, right in front of us, all of us, a nation – likely a world.
After Kennedy’s death, emotions were high for some period of time. As the investigations went on, and speculations started, even Jackie Kennedy’s actions during the assassination were discussed and analyzed. The detail I remember is that of her crawling onto the trunk of the limousine after the shot that shattered JFK’s head. Apparently, there must have been some talk that she was trying to escape and the very notion of that brought my mother into an irate tirade. She knew exactly why Jackie had crawled onto the trunk. It was a pure instinct of protection and love, and completely non-rational, to try to grab the piece of her husband’s head and brain that went flying with that rifle shot. Our most primal instinct is not, as some would have us believe, self-preservation; it is love. Most parents could easily illustrate this, as could soldiers who have seen battle, and a young wife who had already lost too many loved ones.
Interestingly enough, I have no memory of my father’s reaction to the event. He may not even have been around, as much as he was gone as a military officer. My mother was alone during many difficult times, and was certainly alone that afternoon, in any case.
I was not conscious of the emotional impact of this event on me and my relationship with my mother until recently. I knew that this was my earliest memory, vivid even half a century later. I can call up the image without effort. Not so clear is the emotional impact of seeing my mother so terrified and horrified. It was so threatening to me as a little girl that I pushed it into my body, where it was held.
Fast forward to the year 2013, almost exactly fifty years later, and I am lying on a massage table, working with a healer who does counseling and energy work. I had recently been to a gynecologist for the first time in years because my naturopathic doctors were concerned when I had my first menstrual period in nearly a year. They told me that post-menopausal bleeding is linked to uterine cancer, among other nasty conditions. The gynecologist had given me the options of a needle biopsy, an ultrasound, or wait and see if I bleed again, strongly encouraging the first choice. I had no intention of submitting to needles and machines and instead opted for her least favorite path. I would wait and see, in concert with healing work that I find more valuable and more respectful of my female body.
After I had explained the medical details to my counselor/ energy healer, she put her hand on my lower abdomen, on my womb. Somehow the memory that came up immediately was that of being with my mother during the assassination. The tears flowed as I described my mother’s feelings, the incredible fear and grief that hit that day and stayed with her, and many others for so long. And as I talked, heat flowed from my abdomen, so much that my body went into a mild state of shock, with chills, fatigue and a cloudiness in my mind that lasted for some time. I had to sit in her office for another half hour or so just to collect my energy and thoughts enough to go home. As we talked about the experience, my healer also remembered being at home with her mother at the time of the assassination; she was close to my age. We wondered together how many others are out there carrying this memory. I have had no further bleeding since.
Once I spent some more time remembering the events of the day of the assassination, and the feelings that came up during the healing work, I realized that I had internalized my mother’s emotions to a very deep degree, but that I also had my own, triggered by her reaction as well as the reaction of a nation. My sense is that what was rocked off its foundation that day, when my mother lost her bearings, was my own fundamental trust in life. At three years old, I received the message loud and clear that the world was not safe, and even my mother couldn’t keep me safe. The pelvis, as our “root”, is where our sense of stability and safety is moored, so it makes sense that my healing would be centered there. I have had other difficult memories ‘stuck” in my body and released through healing work. This particular one, though, must be shared by many people my age, and I wonder how many of us have had the same opportunity to heal.
I have questions but no answers. I am grateful to have had the time and the opportunity, as I’ve said in earlier posts, to poke around inside and release some of these old scars. I know my health is better for it, at the level of body as well as mind and soul. Despite the occasional bouts of fear over the future, the fact is that I have a much stronger sense today of security than at any point in my life. It has nothing to do with external circumstances: the knowing comes from inside. Fifty one years after the event, I have reclaimed some of the true security I lost through my mother’s horror at Kennedy’s assassination.
Honestly, truth is so much more interesting to me than fiction these days!