August 14, 1963
President John F. Kennedy on the Death of His Infant Son Patrick Bouvier Kennedy
The death of a child, at any age, is unbearable – and Kennedy’s anguish at losing his new-born son, Patrick, was terrible. Writing a week after the child’s birth, and just five days after his death, the still-reeling President thanks his sister-in-law Ethel’s brother George and his wife Pat for their message of condolence. It was “a comfort,” he says, “to me and my family.”
Patrick Bouvier Kennedy was born prematurely on August 7, 1963, and died, just thirty-nine hours later; President Kennedy was with him. Afflicted with a lung condition that blocked the supply of oxygen to his bloodstream, the infant, Kennedy said afterward, “put up quite a fight.” Kennedy was not a man who showed emotion readily - and his tears, almost never. But in the days surrounding tiny Patrick’s death, he was seen weeping on three occasions; alone, after the boy’s death; when telling his bedridden wife about the ordeal; and at the funeral, so “overwhelmed with grief,” Cardinal Cushing recalled, “that he literally put his arm around the casket as though he was carrying it out.”
Typed Letter Signed, as President, 1 page, octavo, The White House, Washington, August 14, 1963. To George and Pat Skakel in Greenwich, Connecticut.