We Say Farewell Caroline's Way

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In life, John F. Kennedy Jr. was a ready celebrity; if he never sought out the adoring crowds, he was at ease in them when they came. A major part of his contribution to the Kennedy legacy was that he wore it so generously, and so well. In death, he will be more like his sister. Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, so close with John their whole lives and certainly closer to him than anyone still living, has been the dominant voice behind this Kennedy farewell. John Jr. will go without crowds, without cameras, without much input from a nation that had no real claim to this president’s son besides an emotional one. A claim that it never staked on Caroline, which was exactly the way she wanted it.

Reportedly, it was Kennedy Schlossberg who made sure that Friday's memorial service was small and private, at an upper Manhattan church that their mother attended, instead of in a large cathedral where the world could freely gawk. And one saw her fingerprints on the decision to cremate John and his two fellow passengers and spread their ashes to the waves in a U.S. Navy "commitment at sea." (As son of the captain of PT 109 –- and the commander-in-chief –- John was certainly entitled; the courtesy was extended to include his wife and her sister.) To the accompaniment of three rifle volleys, the ashes were cast into the water from the destroyer USS Briscoe. No gravesite. No towering mounds of flowers, no mawkish farewell notes from tear-stained girls who never knew him. Caroline knew him better than anyone, knew what his mother would have wanted, knew what he wanted. In some ways, he was the American Diana, perhaps, but the resemblance will end now. Elton John, don’t even think about it.