The Lion has left the building...
Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy died tonight. When his brain cancer diagnosis became public in May 2008, I wrote this post.
Ted Kennedy was a man with flaws, not the least of which was the incident at Chappaquiddick. The best book on that subject is hands-down, Robert Sherrill's "The Last Kennedy" (1976), by the way.
But I think we should honor Ted Kennedy this evening with the words he spoke at his brother Robert Kennedy's funeral in June 1968. At one point in the speech, he spoke of Robert, who we Americans knew as "Bobby," writing about their father. Ted noted the words really applied to Bobby. Well, here are the words, and it is clear, over the decades since 1968, the words also apply to Ted Kennedy himself:
A few years back, Robert Kennedy wrote some words about his own father which expresses the way we in his family felt about him. He said of what his father meant to him, and I quote: "What it really all adds up to is love -- not love as it is described with such facility in popular magazines, but the kind of love that is affection and respect, order and encouragement, and support. Our awareness of this was an incalculable source of strength, and because real love is something unselfish and involves sacrifice and giving, we could not help but profit from it." And he continued, "Beneath it all, he has tried to engender a social conscience. There were wrongs which needed attention. There were people who were poor and needed help. And we have a responsibility to them and to this country. Through no virtues and accomplishments of our own, we have been fortunate enough to be born in the United States under the most comfortable conditions. We, therefore, have a responsibility to others who are less well off."
My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.
Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.
Rest in peace, Senator Kennedy.
Because we are living in what may be described as an ugly, anti-Zen moment, I feel forced to add that Senators Hatch and McCain are liars when they say that if Ted Kennedy was still in the Senate, they'd have negotiated a deal on health care reform with him. In truth, they and their fellow Republican leaders have no intent to enact any health care reform that would actually help anyone but private for-profit insurance companies. Again, it is sad to say, but say it we must.
ADDENDUM: The Boston Globe has a beautiful sketch with photos and podcasts of Ted Kennedy's life.