“Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.”
If you were alive on November 22, 1963, you remember exactly where you were. That was the day when the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated.
Even though I was a young boy of 11, I remember that day vividly. As far as I can remember, I had no political ideology or leanings at that point in my life, but I knew that I admired this youthful president and his family. There was a deep sadness that hung over our nation as we watched the black and white images on our television sets of the president’s flag-draped coffin carried on a horse-drawn caisson, and the salute of little John Jr.
We could not imagine why anyone would want to kill our president. But then to see the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, murdered before our eyes by Jack Ruby on live television was all very surreal. It traumatized our nation.
That fateful day in Dallas started with such promise. The handsome and tanned president sat next to his beautiful first lady, Jacqueline, in the convertible, waving to adoring crowds in the Dallas sunshine. Jackie Kennedy stood out from the sea of blue and black suits in her pink designer Chanel outfit, complete with matching pillbox hat—one of the president’s favorites.
But in just seconds, everything changed. An assassin’s bullets hit President Kennedy’s throat, back and head, with blood spattering everywhere.
After he was pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital, his coffin was loaded onto Air Force One. Vice President Johnson was to be sworn in as 36th president of the United States. And there stood Jackie, stunned but courageous, still wearing her pink suit – now stained in the president’s blood. When asked if she wanted to change into something different, Jackie responded, “Let them see what they have done!”
Such a tragic end to a young president with so much promise.
President Kennedy had no idea that November 22 would be his last day on earth. I recall Billy Graham telling me that he had a strong sense of foreboding about the president going to Dallas that day. He sent a message to the president, simply saying, “Don’t go to Dallas!”
It doesn’t appear that President Kennedy received that message.
Ten days before JFK was inaugurated, the president-elect invited Billy Graham to a game of golf. Billy Graham recalls that day in his autobiography, Just As I Am:
On the way back to the Kennedy house, the president-elect stopped the car and turned to me. “Do you believe in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?” he asked unexpectedly.”I most certainly do.” “Well, does my church believe it?”
“They have it in their creeds.”
“They don’t preach it,” he said. “They don’t tell us much about it. I’d like to know what you think” (page 395).
Billy Graham shared the gospel message in great detail with President-Elect Kennedy. He remembers Kennedy responding, “Very interesting. We’ll have to talk about that someday.”For every one of us, there comes a final day. It came much too soon and in such a horrific way for our 35th president. But that day will come to every man and every woman, rich and poor, famous or unknown. It will come for billionaires, rock stars, kings, queens, prime ministers and, yes, even presidents.
And it will come for you—and me.
Let’s make sure we are ready to meet our Maker on that day. The Bible says, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.”
Let’s make sure we have that “someday” conversation before we come to that final day.