A Tale of Two Jacks


Two Jacks died on November 22, 1963. The assassination of the first, John F. (“Jack”) Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, made international headlines, and still frequently does. The death of the other, C. S. (“Jack”) Lewis, an unpretentious Oxford don, went almost unnoticed. And yet, 55 years later he is considered one of the most influential spiritual thinkers of all time. Outside of their dying on the same date (and being of Northern Irish heritage), there is little to connect them.

Yet each marked a turning point in my life.

I was 13 when Jack Kennedy was shot, a dreamy kid who, apart from the Cuban Missile Crisis the year before, paid little attention to the world around me. I hadn’t needed to. Everything would be fine. People were good. Life was good. And then the unthinkable happened: a man full of inexplicable rage had murdered the president. And the clean, orderly world was suddenly full of blood and chaos. Coach Sebo told us at the start of P.E., and then cancelled all activity. A few of us silently followed him into the gym and watched as the normally stoic man sat sobbing at his desk. And then we cried. Because if Coach Sebo was crying something must be permanently broken. A short time later I discarded all remaining shreds of belief and announced that I was an atheist.

But 13 years later (what is it about that number), the other Jack invaded my life. My backwards pilgrimage to faith—a faith based in reality, rather than guileless, boyish fc44b9cba489d2e859dacd48a8c72923longing—had led me to doubt my doubts, and finally to leap toward the God who was there when I was born and would be there when I died. The moment I landed, I found (via his essays and stories) my spiritual father waiting in the wings. Jack Lewis’ own journey half a century before became a roadmap that guided me, his witty, greathearted spirit a fire that warmed me–and still does.

So every year on this date I celebrate a double anniversary: one that marks my awakening to the darkness enshrouding our world, and one that marks my embracing of the light that shatters that darkness.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir, Religion/Faith, Story Power and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to A Tale of Two Jacks

  1. The assassination awakened my 16 year-old naivete to the darkness of this world. Then Vietnam, MLK, Jr., Bobby and the race riots. It was a very difficult time which I soaked with alcohol and loose living. Thankfully we are loved by a magnificent and magnanimous God. 🙏

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ron Whited says:

    I can still see the shock on my teachers face when she came into the room sobbing to tell us our president was dead. My parents were shocked and outraged, and while I didn’t understand it then, that day marked a turning point for America from which we have never fully recovered.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: A Tale of Two Jacks | Let the Spirit In

  4. Rick says:

    Mitch, wonderful writing as always. I am quite sick and don’t reply as much as I used to, but I read all your posts ! Thank you for your truthful and heart – touching writing !
    I took my blog down. I was accused of being a ” Christian Hypocrite ! ” Once I got over my self-righteous anger and hurt feelings and looked in the mirror and my soul ( both equally painful views), I realized the my honest accuser was far more honest than I !
    The truth does hurt ! I spend as many days as I can alone in a dark motel room even though I have a nice home. I don’t want my family to see my hurt and shame .
    Keep writing, Mitch ! A single candle will light a darkened room !
    May God bless and keep you and your family close and Safe in His Ever Loving arms and gaze.
    Thank you, Mitch ! Keep lighting the darkened rooms ! I am very proud of you !
    Your friend,

    Liked by 2 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      Rick, delighted to hear from you, but so sorry to hear about your struggles. I don’t know the details, so I don’t know why you’ve cloistered yourself away, but I’m praying you’ll let your family in as much as you can–for your sake and theirs. Blessings and prayers, my friend.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. November 22nd is etched there in my mind because of the death of President Kennedy. I don’t feel we have ever recovered from that terrible day, and given the state of the country today, we may never recover. I remember being called in off the field and seeing teachers (men and women) in the hallways unashamedly and uncontrollably crying. How could we not be affected, how could anyone? In regards, C.S. Lewis, I remember from my studies his being a prolific writer, an Irishman like myself, and his desire to acquire a better understanding of other faiths in hopes that from such knowledge we as a people might have more unity. However, the fact that he passed away on that same day escaped my notice. All in all, though, I think it’s pretty nice that Mr. Lewis’ own spiritual journey had such a positive impact on your own faith, Mitch. I feel that’s a much better memory to come from that day to be sure.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. cricketmuse says:

    Didn’t realize the both passed away at the same time. Both profound influencers in their own way.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Great story, Mitch. It’s true that the world doesn’t always pay attention to everything that’s going on. How ironic that your losing your faith and returning to it were connected to the same day.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Beautiful. And somehow I doubt that this was a “coincidence”. Also, you have probably heard of (or read) the book “Between Heaven and Hell” by Peter Kreeft. If not, it is a novel, a dialogue between JFK and C.S. and Aldous Huxley who also died on Nov.22,1963. I found it a bit too focused on making logical arguments, but it’s an interesting concept as they debate their religious and philosophical views.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. carhicks says:

    Thanks for sharing the meaning of this date in you life with us. I was only 5 when JFK was assassinated, so remember the telling of the story rather than the actual event. It is so true that for every bright light, there is also darkness and it is important to remember that.

    Liked by 1 person

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