In death, as in life, she was the portrait of a lady: beautiful until the end; so poised she was sending out thank-you notes from her deathbed; so thoughtful she planned a funeral that, once again, showed a nation how to mourn. And mourn we do, for when Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis died on May 19, 1994, at 64, of a cancer that moved too swiftly, she may have been prepared, but we were not.
Certainly the image of a grieving Jackie standing with her children remains frozen in an awful moment that separates an American past that was too romanticized from a present that is too brutal. But three decades later, Jackie stood for so much more. We were not ready to give up our glimpses of her—elegant, impenetrable, but somehow more approachable as she aged—when she ventured out into the social whirl or onto a merry-go-round with her grandchildren. We were not ready to have that already poignant threesome—the Kennedy tableau of Jacqueline, Caroline and John Jr.—reduced now to two survivors going arm-in-arm into the future. And above all, we were not ready to let her leave without having our questions answered. Quite simply, how did she do it? How did the most famous woman in the world so gracefully endure the fickle winds of American affection? And what, behind those dark glasses and that mysterious smile, was she really thinking?