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Inspirational Article


Lincoln's Lost Son

by Richard Salva

Author of The Reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln

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Are our loved and lost ones gone forever? Or will the pull of our hearts’ affection draw us together again in future lifetimes?

In the movie Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day-Lewis, a number of references are made to Lincoln’s son Willie, who had died in the White House some years before. Willie’s brother Tad misses him. His father, the president, says he also keenly feels his absence. And Willie’s mother, Mary Todd Lincoln, shows more than once the harrowing grief that tore at her heart.

This sad episode in the life of the Great Emancipator had some curious parallels in the life of another famous American nearly a century later. Quite possibly those parallels told the story of the healing of Lincoln’s heart from his loss and grief, and the fulfillment of a father’s wish to spend a lifetime with a beloved child.

The great spiritual master and world teacher, Paramhansa Yogananda—author of the classic Autobiography of a Yogi—said that Abraham Lincoln reincarnated in the twentieth century as the great aviator, Charles Lindbergh. In my book, The Reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln, I highlight hundreds of fascinating connections between these two men, some of which had to do with their children.

Both Lincoln and Lindbergh suffered the fearsome trial of the loss of a beloved son while centered in the public eye. For Lincoln, it was losing Willie to typhoid while Lincoln was president of a divided land fighting a civil war. Every move Lincoln made in those days was scrutinized. After Charles Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris in 1927, he became the most popular man in the world. And everything he did or said was scrutinized. At the height of Lindbergh’s popularity, he had to deal with the tragic loss of his first son, Charles Jr., who died during a kidnapping attempt.

Willie had been Lincoln’s favorite son. Here is part of the story from my book:

Abraham Lincoln gazed at the body of his son. Willie had been buried days before, but Lincoln felt the loss so keenly that he opened the casket once more so that he might see Willie’s features again. His poor boy, Lincoln wept. His poor little boy. How he missed him. He said a prayer, imploring God to grant Willie peace.

Little Willie Lincoln had died in the White House of typhoid fever, and it was a crushing blow. His mother was devastated; but for Lincoln, too, the bereavement was intense. And it was difficult to comfort his wife and continue with his duties while ensconced in the public eye. It took all his strength just to get out of bed in the morning and go to work. But he set aside time every Thursday for grieving.

Willie had been special from the start, born less than a year after Eddie’s death, almost as if volunteering to take his brother’s place. He was also the apple of his father’s eye. He was like a miniature version of him; the son unconsciously mimicked his father. If ever the ideal father-and-son relationship was manifest on earth, it had been theirs.

And now, after so few years together, death had stolen Willie away. For a long while, Lincoln could scarcely bear the loss, until a Christian minister reminded him of the biblical teaching that all souls live after death. After this, he no longer wept for his boy, and the thought of death didn’t disturb him nearly so much. But he still missed Willie, and dreamed of him at night.

Lindbergh’s son was dead. Charles Jr. had died of a head wound during the kidnapping attempt.

Fame had dealt a grievous blow, but Lindbergh weathered the storm with unexpected strength. He turned his energies toward helping the authorities locate the guilty parties, and to comforting his wife, who was devastated. Although Anne grieved for many years, and on some level never got over the death of her boy, Charles rebounded more quickly. It wasn’t all that long before he felt the joy of living once again. Still, it had been difficult to lose a son and launch a doomed attempt to retrieve him while in the public gaze.

Part of what broke the spell of bereavement for the Lindberghs was the arrival soon after of Jon. The new baby stirred Anne from a quagmire of shock and grief. As Jon grew, he brought a special pleasure to his father as well.

Little Jon’s nature was very much in harmony with his dad’s. The two were often seen playing, working, or just spending time together. In some ways, the son imitated his father. Happily, their relationship spanned more than four decades, until Charles’s passing in 1974.

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Was Jon Lindbergh the reincarnation of Willie Lincoln? And did he return as Lindbergh’s son so that he and Lincoln’s spirit could enjoy the years of shared connections that were stolen from them by typhoid?

The implications of Yogananda’s words make this a real possibility. And they offer hope that we also may meet our loved and lost ones again and enjoy their company in future lives.