19 May 2012
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. PRESIDENT
No, today is not Barack Obama's birthday. Fifty years ago today, actress and sex symbol Marilyn Monroe sang "Happy Birthday Mr. President" to the charismatic John F. Kennedy, at a gathering in Madison Square Garden to celebrate his 45th birthday. Monroe's rendition was memorable for its sultry, seductive delivery, and for her sheer, flesh-colored, rhinestone-studded dress which was so form-fitting that she literally had to be sewn into it.
The event was spiced by the belief that Monroe and Kennedy had had an affair ~ perhaps born out by Jackie Kennedy's not attending the birthday celebration. It was also poignant, in view of Monroe's death less than three months later, at the age of 36. Here is a grainy video of her performance (bear in mind it was 1962). Afterward, Kennedy joked, "I can now retire from politics after having had Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way."
Sadly, Kennedy himself left us just over a year later ~ on 22 November 1963, he was assassinated while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas.
When we lose someone, whether an admired public figure or a beloved friend or relative, it is believed that we go through five stages of grief ~ denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But what about if the loss isn't to death, but to separation? Someone close to us moves on to a new job, a new relationship, or a new city. The loss may be temporary or permanent. In The Meaning of Goodbye, Krystal D'Costa explores departures from individuals and from groups. If temporary, a casual "see you later" may suffice. If permanent, a more formal observance may be needed to confirm the connection, express intimacy, and bestow wishes for a safe and happy life.
D'Costa reminds us that "At the end of the day, it's not an easy experience for everyone. Goodbyes, especially among an affectionate cohort, can weigh heavily on the group dynamic, which is why it bears repeating that they are only as final as you allow them to be ~ after all, there's always Facebook." And email, and snail mail, and phone calls, and future visits, and Skype, and ....