How his Irish Catholic faith brought Teddy Kennedy home

09/03/2009 04:55 PM

"It was my faith that brought me home," Teddy Kennedy writes at the end of his memoir "True Compass" which will be published on September 14.

His extraordinary account of his battle with cancer in the final pages of that memoir will serve as an inspiration for all who face the same terrible fight. His closing line is an eloquent and wonderful epitaph for an Irish Catholic who battled demons in life.

Somehow, Kennedy found a way to overcome those demons even though he spent his life in the shadow of famous brothers and in the bright glare of the relentless media spotlight.

His Irish heritage forms a huge part of the book, as might be expected. His work on the Northern Irish peace process gave him as much satisfaction as those of us who worked with him on it suspected. It is quite simply, one of the great triumphs of his later life.

On the darker side, he frankly admits that he drank way too much in the years after Robert's death. That and Chappaquiddick he says almost caught him in a death spiral but somehow he survived.

Kennedy was nothing but a fighter, often one who suffered from self inflicted wounds. His brothers died at their zenith, so were displayed in amber in an aura of perfect grace.

With Teddy we got the man in full, flawed, yet magnificent in his determination to never give up on his ideals.

Kennedy did not wear his religion on his sleeve like many bible thumpers but in the end he hewed to the biblical message that "blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Nobody helped the poor like Teddy Kennedy, nobody felt their pain more. It is a message his detractors deliberately choose to ignore, focusing instead on his all too easy flaws. Another biblical message should give them pause: "Let him without sin cast the first stone."

Kennedy's deep Irish faith came from his mother, Rose. She sought solace in her faith during the many tragedies she suffered.

He is contrite about Chappaquidick and said the death of Mary Jo Kopechne haunted him all his life. "Atonement lasts a lifetime," he said. We will never know what really happened on that lonely road off Chappaquiddick Island. Kennedy strongly denied that he was drunk on the night of that dreadful accident.

Suffice to say that Kennedy felt its impact the rest of his life and that his deep Irish faith helped him cope.


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