JFK, C.S. Lewis, a PE Coach and Me

Above (L to R): JFK; Drama team holiday show with buddy Rory on the far left, co-star Mike at the podium, and me (center) as a rather skinny department store Santa; Coach Sebbo; C.S. Lewis.

My Real Memoir

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. The death of the other, C.S. (“Jack”) Lewis, an unpretentious Oxford don, went almost unnoticed. And yet Lewis is now 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 (as am I), there’s little to connect them.

Yet each marked a turning point in my life.

By the time I was 13, I’d developed an abiding faith — in myself. God I wasn’t so sure about. After all, he hadn’t said a word when I’d given him his big chance at summer camp. Still, life was good. As the self-assigned leader of our little Advanced Drama class, I was in the midst of preparing our upcoming holiday show (above). I had no clue what I was doing, but then I had no clue that I had no clue—so everything was perfect. My ego was thriving. I was the star of my own fantasy reality show, and, apart from the Cuban Missile Crisis the year before, I paid little attention to the world around me. I didn’t need to. Life was good. People were good.

And then the unthinkable happened: Someone who wasn’t good, someone full of inexplicable rage, murdered our president. And the clean, orderly world was suddenly full of blood and chaos. Coach Sebbo announced it at the start of P.E., and then cancelled all activity. A few of us silently followed him into the gym and watched as one of our favorite teachers sat sobbing and praying at his desk. And then we cried. Because if Coach Sebbo was crying something must be permanently broken. A short time later, Coach’s example notwithstanding, 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 a faith based in reality, rather than boyish longings, had led me to abandon my doubts and leap toward God. And the moment I landed, I found my spiritual father waiting in the wings. C.S. Lewis’ own journey half a century before became the roadmap that guided me, his witty, greathearted spirit the fire that warmed me–and still does. I also ran into Coach Sebbo that year. To my astonishment, Coach, now Principal Sebbo, remembered my name. He warmly shook my hand and, when I mentioned my fledgling faith, grinned…

As though he’d already guessed.

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

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

36 Responses to JFK, C.S. Lewis, a PE Coach and Me

  1. An Audience of One says:

    Such a beautiful post!
    P. S. G. W. also posted on C. S. Lewis today. So great when that happens, and you find blogs that are in sync!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: The Year I Broke My Teacher | Mitch Teemley

  3. Ahhhh, love it. I also discovered the other Jack, and eventually managed to go get baptized when I was 13. I’m still fond of Narnia lamp posts.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Didn’t encounter CS Lewis until my kids read the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in elementary school. (They probably don’t even allow kids to read that now!) It took me a long time to read because I’d look at a passage, and then I’d have to think about it and process it before I could go on to the next paragraph or passage. I remembered the assassination of JFK because of my grandma’s weird response, “Well, he WAS Catholic…” She was a Lutheran Pastor’s wife, so I guess I can see the long-standing prejudice as part of her world. It shocked me to my core. Terminal violence was such a foreign concept to me at that age. I’d dealt with bullies since Kindergarten, but violence that would end a life seemed inconceivable.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. C.A. Post says:

    The thing that intrigues me about this blog is YOUR announcement that you had become a Christ-follower. Too many ‘evangelists’ count “sinners’ prayers” without follow-up or challenge to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.
    When Jesus transformed lives in the NT, nobody said, “Now put your faith in the facts and not your feelings, and confess you are saved.” The transformed announced it to their families, their neighbors and their communities, sometimes at the cost of their lives. And thus it should be.
    This will become clearer as the Western Church begins to experience the persecution much of the third world Christ-followers already do.
    ❤️&🙏, c.a.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree, some of Lewis’ books guide you to understandings that make you wish you had read them earlier in life!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Wonderful story. We just lost a writer fascinated with the Irish, Thomas Cahill. He had a gift that combined engaging writing with a love for history. You might want to read an obit. Why am I attracted to those things, likely my 77 years. Sure glad I made it that far.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This is yet another example while the destination can be so, so wonderful and enjoyable for us, the journey there can be as well. Great post, Mitch.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Both Jacks said amazing things. Their deaths (as is also true of MLK’s) have silenced not one Christly word, really. Death cannot.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ah , such a special post.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I have a book of C.S Lewis’ poetry that is as good as any prose he wrote. It’s good you found his writings.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I remember how horrified I was when my fifth grade teacher announced to the class that our president had been assassinated. I told my mom as soon as I got home from school, but she refused to believe it. “It must have been the president’s father that died, he is an old man,” she said. I wanted to believe her, but as she soon learned, the president had indeed been murdered.

    When I was in my early 20s, wrestling with spiritual doubts, I discovered C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and Surprised by Joy. His writings made a strong impression on me, although I still had many more years of doubt to overcome. I only discovered a few years ago, thanks to Wikipedia, that C.S. Lewis died on the same day that President Kennedy was assassinated. I hope they are rejoicing together in heaven.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Great post brother. C. S. Lewis has meant so much to so many people.

    Shalom!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Mitch, I had never made any connection between the “two Jacks” other than their dying on the same day. Thanks for the interesting memory.
    (I have profound memories of the day John Lennon was killed. That was the day our son was born.)

    Liked by 2 people

  15. And we recently saw the anniversary of the passing on October 21 of my favorite Jack … that would be Kerouac.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Nancy Ruegg says:

    C. S. Lewis has been my husband’s favorite author for decades. S. owns nearly every book he wrote. Then, when our older son was in college and his faith was being tested, C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity greatly influenced him to realign his hope and faith in Christ. So Jack Lewis holds a special place of honor–on our bookshelves and in our hearts!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I first read C. S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” a few months after I became a believer in Jesus, and it is probably the book (besides the Bible) that has influenced my faith more than any other. All these years later, his work is still bearing fruit for Christ.
    Also, I read with interest the comments above about Thomas Cahill. “How the Irish Saved Civilization” should be required reading for any person of Irish descent interested in their heritage. A great work.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Thanks for the well told story. It invites us to think of our own spiritual journey’s and the circuitous route God uses to reveal Himself to us: https://moreenigma.com/2022/09/07/the-circuitous-journey-of-self-discovery/

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Jennie says:

    What a great post! What a great story! Thank you, Mitch. This will stick with me…

    Liked by 1 person

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