Later Years

From the time Maurice moved into 1040, Jackie lived a quiet, fulfilled life. At Doubleday, she pursued book projects and writers with a finely honed literary passion. She reveled in her children and grandchildren and spent time in Central Park, jogging every morning around the reservoir and taking walks in the afternoons and early evenings, either alone or with Maurice. Summers were spent on Martha's Vineyard. Although Jackie shied away from social events, she frequently entertained her circle of friends at her Upper East Side apartment. And she continued to devote time and money to pet causes.


“Going back to our childhood days, she always loved New York and everything about it — the museums, the parks, the people…. She was always drawn back to New York. She chose to bring up her children in the city. She got into publishing because she knew it would be an educational experience — she would learn something every moment.”

— Nancy Tuckerman

To her friends and associates, these years were among her happiest and most contented. She found her continued notoriety bemusing but had come to terms with it. As always, John and Caroline were her primary concern. While she might nudge, she never pushed, contrary to tabloid speculation that Jackie forbade her son from pursuing an acting career after he appeared in several theater productions. John, though, stated publicly that it was always just a diversion for him, not a vocation.

President Bill Clinton, Senator Edward Kennedy, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis chat together, 1993

Photo Credit: Dirck Halstead/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Sudden Illness

In June 1993, Jackie and Maurice took a trip to France. Jackie came down with a summer cold that left her exhausted, and they flew back home to spend the rest of the summer on Martha's Vineyard. When Jackie returned to work at Doubleday in September, she had yet to shake what she believed was a lingering cold. Her children suggested she cut back on her schedule to give herself a chance to recuperate. Instead, she spent weekends riding in the country, participating in hunts. During a ride in November, Jackie fell off her horse. She was knocked briefly unconscious and taken to the hospital. During the examination, doctors noticed she had a swollen lymph node in her groin. She felt better after taking a course of antibiotics, but she still wasn't at full strength. When she returned to New York, she still felt weak enough to cancel several business appointments.


“I feel it is a kind of hubris. I have always been proud of keeping so fit. I swim, and I jog, and I do my push-ups, and walk around the reservoir, and I gave up smoking 40 years ago — and now this suddenly happens.”

Her physical malaise lasted though the Christmas season, although her spirits were high. She decorated her apartment with a tree and took Rose for her first trip to the ballet. She and Maurice left for a Caribbean cruise during Christmas week. But the trip was cut short after Jackie developed severe back and abdominal pain. She also discovered a second swollen lymph node, this one in her neck. Back in New York she was admitted to New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center for a series of tests. The results were sobering: Jackie was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.


What is non-Hodgkin's lymphoma?

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, or NHL, is a cancer of the immune sys-tem. Typical symptoms include enlarged lymph nodes, fever, and weight loss. There are many different types of lymphoma, and the causes are complex and largely unknown. Prognosis and treatment depend on the stage and type of disease. Nearly 20,000 Americans die from NHL annually.

Jackie's doctors recommended she undergo aggressive chemotherapy. She endured the treatment without complaint, assuring everyone it wasn't unbearable. The good part was that she could read a book while the chemo was administered. Despite her condition, Jackie remained upbeat, cheerful, and optimistic. Some friends wondered if she wasn't putting on a front to protect her friends and family from the gravity of the situation.

Jackie's illness was made public in February 1994, prompting an outpouring of well wishes from acquaintances and strangers alike. Initially, her prognosis was hopeful — doctors told her there was a fifty-fifty chance the chemotherapy would stabilize her form of NHL.


“I knew she was very ill, and I knew she wasn't going to live long. I left her one of my garden books, and I ended my note by saying: Let's go hunting together next year. She sent me a handwritten note back that said: ‘Wouldn't it be fun? Let's do it.’”

— C. Z. Guest

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