Visitors to the Little White House in Warm Springs, Ga., view a charming movie clip of President Franklin Roosevelt in one of the pools on the property. He’s throwing a beach ball and playing with children in the pool, who like him, were seeking relief from polio in the warm, mineral-laden waters of the community.
It’s baffling that most Americans didn’t know the president used a wheelchair. The late newsman David Brinkley said in his autobiography that White House press conferences used to be held in the Oval Office. The president sat at his desk to answer questions, and Brinkley said it never occurred to them to include in their reporting that the president used a wheelchair.
Today we know about goings-on in the Oval Office within months of a new administration since “tell-all” books are published quickly!
In the president’s home in Georgia one can see the “Unfinished Portrait” of FDR in the cabin’s living area.
Artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff sat with Roosevelt on April 12, 1945 to paint his portrait. The president complained of a “terrific headache” and decided to lie down. The small bedroom is modest—it doesn’t look like a bedroom of royalty. It’s wood paneled and the bed is a single twin bed. The president lay down on that bed and died.
Is there an opportune time for a president to die? No, but especially at that moment. Roosevelt was commander-in-chief of the American armed forces and the leader of the free world. World War II was winding down but wasn’t done yet. Hitler was on the ropes, but it would take another month before Nazi Germany surrendered. Hirohito was on the ropes, but it would take another four months before the Empire of Japan surrendered.
Furthermore, the president was overseeing a top-secret research program called “The Manhattan Project.” With the help of former German scientists, America was developing a new and deadly weapon called the atomic bomb. This project was so secret that Vice President Harry Truman knew nothing about it.
That afternoon first lady Eleanor Roosevelt summoned Truman to the White House in Washington and addressed him for the first time as “Mr. President.”
The “Unfinished Portrait” of FDR is a reminder that death shows no partiality.
The writer of the Epistle of Hebrews said, “It is appointed to men once to die, and after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Somewhere on God’s calendar is a “red letter” day as far as you and I are concerned. It’s the day we’ll step into eternity and meet our creator.
Realizing the frailty of life ought to motivate us to choose wisely today. Death often comes suddenly and unexpectedly, putting an end to all our tomorrows.