Posted by PatriciaHarty at 8/28/2009 6:37 PM EDT
A sailboat moves slowly down the river its canvas furled.
It's out there all on its own in the quiet of the early morning.
It's a gray day and raindrops streak my windows.
It’s fitting that it should be overcast – for we are in mourning.
The lone sailor makes me think of Teddy – for sailing was his passion and his solace.
The television is tuned to CNN as it has been since I heard of his passing. I watch the images of people filing past the flag-draped coffin. They have come in the thousands – every race, creed and color.
The Kennedy clan take turns greeting the mourners. For now, it’s Teddy’s daughter Kara and her two children Grace and Max.
This interaction with the public goes beyond politeness. Though often been referred to as American Royalty, the Kennedy family pride themselves in identifying with their hardscrabble Irish ancestors. I think that maybe it was some kind of historic memory embedded in Teddy’s DNA that made him a champion of the poor, the sick, the disabled.
And, it wasn’t just Teddy. His sister Eunice, who passed away just a couple of weeks ago, founded the Special Olympics providing enormous joy to the mentally retarded and their families, while his Jean began the Very Special Arts program, a creative counterpart to Special Olympics where Kara now works.
And now, Mary Flanagan, the mother of a daughter with disability is telling the CNN reporter that a month ago, even as the senator was losing his battle with cancer, she received an e-mail from his office in response to a query she had sent.
And a Nigerian woman talks about how Teddy was there to fight the fight on immigration on her behalf.
He was a man of the people, and for the people, but he was there for his family too.
Who can forget him at Caroline’s wedding?
"Her gown had little shamrocks on it which is something I think her father would have been touched by," he later recalled.
And he wasn’t just there for the first communions and the graduations and the weddings, he was there at the end.
He was there for his brother Robert at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in June 8, 1968.
“He gave us strength in times of trouble, wisdom in time of uncertainty, and sharing in time of happiness. He will always be by our side.”
These are words that we can find consolation in now.
For Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, May 23, 1994:
"I often think of what she said about Jack in December after he died: ‘They made him a legend, when he would have preferred to be a man.’ Jackie would have preferred to be just herself, but the world insisted that she be a legend too."
Teddy too would want us to remember him as a man.
Surely, if his heart wasn’t already broken, it must have been shattered by the death of John F. Kennedy Jr.
He gave that eulogy too on July 23, 1999, Church of St. Thomas More, New York:
“The Irish ambassador recited a poem to John's father and mother soon after John was born. I can hear it again now, at this different and difficult moment . . . . We dared to think, in that other Irish phrase, that this John Kennedy would live to comb gray hair, with his beloved Carolyn by his side. But like his father, he had every gift but length of years.”
We wish Teddy could have given us a few more years.
It was plain that the end was near when he was not at his beloved sister Eunice’s funeral. But I like to think that he was remembering his own words in the eulogy he gave for his mother Rose in January 1995.
“Mother knew this day was coming, but she did not dread it. She accepted it and even welcomed it, not as a leaving but as a returning. She has gone to God and she is home and at this moment she is happily presiding at the heavenly table with both her two Joes; Kathleen, John and Bobby. She will be there to welcome the rest of us home some day of this I have no doubt.”
The sailor and his boat have long passed my window.
Night is starting to fall. At the Kennedy Library, the Irish wake for Teddy will soon begin.
The lines of a favorite poem of my mother’s come to mind:
“In the valley
Shadows rise. The lark sings on. The sun,
Closing his benediction,
Sinks, and the darkening air
Thrills with a sense of the triumphing night--
Night with her train of stars
And her great gift of sleep.
So be my passing!
My task accomplish'd and the long day done,
My wages taken, and in my heart
Some late lark singing,
Let me be gather'd to the quiet west,
The sundown splendid and serene.”
God Bless, Teddy, May Perpetual Light shine upon you.