Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Old Lion is Dead

In the early morning hours of January 6, 1919, Theodore Roosevelt died in his bed, at his home, his beloved Sagamore, in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York.

Since his youngest son, Quentin, had been shot down and killed in a dog fight over the Marne River in France on July 14, 1918, life had taken its toll on the Old Lion. For weeks that late fall and early winter he had been in hospital, convalescing in part from a return of his malarial infections.

On January 5, he rested while working at his family home. He read and dictated letters, reworked a magazine article and an editorial, and reviewed the book of a friend. Toward evening he told Edith, “I wonder if you will ever know how much I love Sagamore Hill.”

At his bedside that night, he made some notes intended for the instruction of the Republican national Committee Chairman who was working to bring TR back as the GOP presidential candidate in 1920.

“James, please put out the light,” were TR’s last words, spoken to his loyal valet at midnight. James awoke from his bedside chair to witness TR’s death rattle at 4:00 A.M. A coronary embolism in his life-long weak heart was the fatal blow.

Archie, sent home with severe injuries from the war in Europe, cabled his brothers in Germany, “The Old Lion is dead.”

On this, the 90th anniversary of the death of Theodore Roosevelt, on the Feast of the Epiphany, I offer a prayer of thanks for the life and the service of a great American. May we all take some courage from his example.

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