Afterlives of the Rich and Famous

John Kennedy Jr.

His image is crystallized in the memory of a nation grieving the death of its president—an innocent three-year-old boy stepping away from his mother and his uncle to stand at attention and salute the American flag on his father’s casket. At that moment John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr., the first child born to a president-elect, became “our” child, beyond politics and conspiracy theories, just a baby who’d suffered a loss he couldn’t possibly understand.

He was born on November 25, 1960, in Washington, D.C., sixteen days after his father, John F. Kennedy, was elected the thirty-fifth president of the United States. He was the second child of John and Jacqueline Kennedy—his sister, Caroline, was born three years earlier, and his younger brother, Patrick, born in 1963, died just two days after his birth.

After the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963, Jacqueline moved with Caroline and John to a Manhattan apartment on the Upper East Side in an effort to shield them from the glaring media spotlight destined to follow the two beautiful children of the idealized “Camelot” first family. Tragedy hit again, on June 6, 1968, when John’s Uncle Bobby, Robert Kennedy, who’d become his father figure after the death of JFK, was assassinated as well, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after winning the California primary in his bid for the presidency. Four months later John’s mother, Jacqueline, married Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, a marriage that lasted until Onassis’s death in 1975.

John, in the meantime, attended New York’s Collegiate School, then graduated from Phillips Andover Academy. His curiosity and interest in his education intensified in his late teens, taking him to Brown University to study American history, to Guatemala to literally lend a hand after a devastating earthquake there, and to Africa, where he studied environmental issues and worked with a mining firm in Johannesburg. His extraordinary good looks inevitably led to a brief turn at acting in several Brown University plays, but his passions ultimately guided him elsewhere. After graduating from Brown with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1982, he traveled to India and studied at the University of Delhi, then returned to the United States and devoted his time to such Kennedy family projects as the East Harlem School at Exodus House and his own creation, Reaching Up, a program to improve treatment for the disabled. He also worked for the New York City Office of Business Development and the 42nd Street Development Corporation before entering New York University Law School in 1986.

Rumors of John’s potential entrance into the political arena spread like wildfire when, at the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, his photogenic, charismatic, movingly articulate appearance to introduce his uncle, Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, became the talk of pundits across the country. Instead, he graduated from law school with a J.D. in 1989, passed the bar exam on his third try, and became an assistant prosecutor in the office of New York district attorney Robert Morgenthau, a position he successfully held for four years, winning all six of the cases he prosecuted.

In 1995 John took on the Herculean task of cofounding a new magazine, a glossy monthly called George, whose slogan promised “Not politics as usual.” He wrote essays and editorials for the magazine himself, occasionally even targeting members of his own family. While it wasn’t a blazing success, George did hold on until2001, two years after John’s death.

His social life was a constant source of media fascination and every bit as active as expected for People magazine’s 1988 “Sexiest Man Alive.” He was romantically linked with Daryl Hannah, Julia Roberts, Madonna, Brooke Shields, and Sarah Jessica Parker, to name a few, before he finally proposed to publicist Carolyn Bessette. They were married on September 21, 1996, on Cumberland Island, Georgia, in a private ceremony that managed to elude the press and at which John’s sister, Caroline, served as the matron of honor.

On July 16, 1999, John, his wife, Carolyn, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, were en route to Martha’s Vineyard in a private single-engine plane with John as its pilot, ultimately headed to the wedding of John’s cousin Rory in Hyannisport, Massachusetts. The plane failed to arrive as scheduled, massive search parties were dispatched, and finally, on July 21, the bodies of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife, and his sister-in-law were recovered in the waters off Gay Head on Martha’s Vineyard. Their ashes were scattered into the Atlantic from the USS Briscoe, and America mourned the loss of its handsome, magnetic prince of Camelot.

From Francine

John arrived Home in a heartbeat and immediately found himself in the arms of his mother; his grandparents, his Uncle Robert, and his father were waiting to greet him as well. It was all he could do to let go of his mother, from whose death on earth he had never fully recovered, to embrace the others, and there was almost a shyness about him as he and John Sr. met. “I was three years old when my father died,” he says. “I never had a chance to know him. I was much closer to my uncles, who did a great job of taking over for him while I was growing up.”

There was no sadness, confusion, or regret in him. Instead, John was exhilarated to find himself here and had no need for Orientation or cocooning, nor did his wife and sister-in-law. He left the Scanning Machine to resume his rich, busy life with Jackie—his soul mate—by his side. Please let go of the fallacy that soul mates, on the extremely rare occasions when they both incarnate at the same time, are limited on earth to romantic relationships. They can be family members. They can be good friends. They can have any connection they choose to construct for themselves, for their own purposes, during a shared incarnation. Jackie and John chose to be mother and son in their one shared incarnation, so that they could be there for each other through the uniquely difficult charts they designed for themselves. Now that they’re Home again, they of course maintain their own highly distinctive identities and pursue their own interests, but they also live and work together.

Their house is built, decorated, and situated identically to the house on Martha’s Vineyard, where they both felt safe and peaceful. “There was a gate at the road, at the entrance to our long driveway,” John says. “Even if it had been all over the media that my mother or I was at the house, we could leave that gate open, and often did, and never worry about anyone bothering us.
Everyone respected our privacy, and we respected theirs, and we loved it there.” They continue to balance their love of privacy and social lives in which they each have their own friends with whom they prefer to spend time in small groups.
Jackie loves gatherings at home with authors, artists, and classical musicians. John prefers hiking with historians, athletes, political leaders, and above all his uncles and his father—they’re enjoying getting to know each other, and John Sr. has expressed his appreciation and respect for his son’s decision not to become a politician, which John says he would never have pursued. His chosen life themes of Experiencer and Justice, he says, were incompatible with anything involving politics beyond studying and writing about them—as he puts it, he preferred getting things done to scheduling endless committee meetings to discuss getting things done.

John and Jackie work together with a vast research team focused on the prenatal detection, treatment, and cure of birth defects.
The team actively infuses scientists and medical researchers in North America, Japan, and Brazil, and they anticipate the announcement of a collaborative global breakthrough in or around 2026 in your years. John is also part of a team of ecologists who are working toward solutions for restoring the earth’s ozone layer.

He and Jackie were among what seemed like scores of family members who gathered to welcome John’s Uncle Ted to the Other Side. Like the rest of the “Kennedy men,” John will not be reincarnating.

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