Senator Ted Kennedy with his niece CarolineTeddy and Caroline Kennedy

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There were new fears over the health of Senator Edward Kennedy today as he failed to attend the funeral of his much-loved 88-year-old sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver in Cape Cod.

This was the second time this week the Senator failed to appear as expected at a public function.

The first was at the White House on Wednesday when his daughter Kara, who was close to tears, accepted his Presidential Medal of Freedom on his behalf.

A close family confidant said that Kennedy's absence today shows that his health is deteriorating rapidly.

He is said to be under costant medical supervision but friends and family fear he is close to the end.

"What he has is incurable," said the confidant, "we have known that for some time, but it is just hard for everyone to face it."

"We may be talking about weeks rather than months."

Meanwhile, mourners filled the beautiful St Francis Xavier church in Cape Cod to say their farewells to his sister Eunice.

The ceremony was invitation-only and onlookers lined the streets outside the church to pay their respects to the Kennedy family.

Mourners included the Vice President Joe Biden, Massachussetts Governor Deval Patrick, Oprah Winfrey and Stevie Wonder.