The train moved slowly along the eight hundred
miles of track from Georgia, Franklin’s body

in the last car, I, alone, in a Pullman,
exhausted, yet keyed up thinking of all

I had to do in the next days. And there,
through a day and night and into the next,

at every small crossroads or town, along
the streets of cities, or in clusters at the edge

of fields, people waited beside the tracks to pay
tribute to Franklin. Men took off hats, held

them to their chests, bowed their heads; others
stood with arms around the shoulders of wife

or mother, the women weeping, the men weeping.
Once I glimpsed four Negro women in a cotton

field fall to their knees in prayer. Hymns floated
through the windows because church choirs, waiting

trackside, sung Rock of Ages or Abide With Me,
the voices swelling when they saw my face.

I wept at such a tide of sorrow. When night
fell, we darkened the cars and lit only

the President’s so his catafalque, draped
in the flag, could be seen for miles. Wrapped

in blankets, parents held their children high
so one day they might remember they had seen

the train that carried Roosevelt home. I moved
outside of myself then and entered the pageant

of the public mourner. Caught up in this
tempest of grief, lost somewhere deep down

inside myself, I felt surprised, nonetheless,
by this great outpouring. I knew the man

in his weaknesses and shortcomings, his
failings as a father, husband, friend. He had

betrayed me yet again, so I learned within
minutes of arriving at Warm Springs, for his

cousin, Laura Delano, told me Lucy Mercer
Rutherfurd was with him when his cerebral

hemorrhage struck. She had dined at The White
House several times that year, their meetings

arranged and “covered” by our daughter.
Franklin promised me, on condition I not

divorce him, he would never see her again.
My awful failing is not forgetting a hurt,

rarely forgiving one. Who was I if not his
unwanted, if respected, nemesis,

his hair shirt, his harasser, waving my
moral standard with nary a smile or

cheerful word? Franklin, this action must
be taken. This congressman placated. This

reform pursued.
I could never relax, never
enjoy, completely, his bonhomie, his

sparkle. Had I become such a cynic? So
disillusioned by love, I assumed others

felt as I did? That columnist—who was he?—
O’Donnell?—who wrote: Franklin’s problem

with Eleanor is she’s too ethical for him.

To ethical, too driven, too demanding.

Uncompromising. That night I drew back
the window curtain of my berth and until

dawn watched those lining the tracks. Their bodies—
the very body of the nation—seemed to pass

through my recumbent form. Then I took in
the scope of what Franklin and I had begun

in those Groton woods, beside the Nashua
River, when we pledged ourselves to one

another forty-two years before. Ours was
a tender, passionate love—I was nineteen,

he, twenty-one, still at Harvard. Oh I took
back from him years ago my vulnerability,

sealed myself like a housewife seals her
preserves with paraffin. He had his

“second wife,” Missy LeHand, whose company
I never begrudged him. I had my loves, Earl,

Lenora, my life apart from his. There were five
children to live for, appearances to maintain—

our country, the Depression, war, the world’s
future—so what had become of that immense

passion? Surely it was here, in those men
and women weeping as if a saint had died

instead of a fragile, imperfect man,
a man ruled by desires and whims, a need

for subterfuge, flattery, a man of such
particular thoughtlessness, in certain regards,

he could stun me to disbelief, and yet
a lonely man, desperate for companionship,

who would flirt because he could not bear
solitude. All the while he had the people—

how beautiful their hands, their faces,
the reverence and dignity of their bearing.

As was not true with me, yet so with them—
in all the things that were of real, permanent

importance—he never let them down.
In the years to come, spoken in the thousands

of varied accents we Americans have,
causing my throat to clutch, my tears to rise—

hundreds upon hundreds would say to me—
“Mrs. Roosevelt, I loved your husband.”