There lies within the heart of every true romantic a yearning for exquisitely exacting words. Words that express desire, words that set the imagination on fire, words that lift your spirits higher and higher. The ups the downs of love and the drama of personal intimacies pull us deeper into the secret realm of lovers. Today it was announced that Bonham’s auction house in London will be offering Jackie Kennedy’s letters to David Ormsby Gore for sale (read the full story here). Most people did not realize there was a romantic interlude for Jackie after her husband’s assassination and her fairly quick followup marriage to Aristotle Onassis. Now we know and those letters reveal that two people shared not only love but a very deep and painful loss.
It occurs to me that Jackie and I belong to a specialized club of sorority sisters. To be in the club you have to, of course, be a widow. More than that, this particular club requires that your story as a couple takes on a life of its own; the public is invited in so it is no longer your own private story. Then to qualify you for the club, the man and the story must be taken away from you suddenly and horribly while you are still young enough to have–and to want– a second act. You need to find a replacement for that original story but you dread it. You dread that it will happen again and you dread that it might never happen again. How could one ever replace a Jack Kennedy?
In the immediate aftermath of your loss you are never quite sure if what you are feeling is grief-induced or the surge of genuine passion to start the process of falling in love again. You might dip your toe in to see how the water feels. The water might be moving too fast for you. That makes you instinctively seek safety and protection, just like Jackie explains in her letters. Caution is your friend as you make your first foray again into that realm of lovers, knowing it will unravel your carefully mended heartstrings and expose your heart to the possibility of loss once more. That’s a good enough reason to keep that first love affair secret, unseen by the millions of eyes that expect you to be that perfect widow. I think that’s what Jackie was trying to express to David in the letters that he kept all of his life. And so much more between the lines.