Regardless of what you may have heard to the contrary, I am not older than Methuselah. And yet, I have seen the funerals of way too many Kennedys. Given my Republican roots, I did not start my adult life as a fan of the Kennedy family.
I remember exactly where I was when JFK was assassinated. I was a fairly new teacher and heard a commotion outside my classroom door. When I went out to investigate, the principal and another teacher were standing there with stricken looks on their faces. One of them blurted out "The President has been shot." I really could not comprehend what they were saying because those were the days before the United States became a killing field. After John's death, the country shut down and everyone lived in front of their television sets for days.
My admiration for the Kennedys began to grow. When Bobby was killed, I was heartbroken because in him I saw the promise of greater things to come. It was not to be. At that time, young Teddy Kennedy seemed to be the lightweight of the family and I did not anticipate any contributions from him. Boy, was I wrong!
At first, it seemed like I was right. There was Chappaquiddick and rumors of womanizing. His drinking was legendary. His marriage fell apart. Politically, it seemed like his brothers' shoes were way too big for him to fill. Gradually, I started to realize that he was enabling laws that helped us common folks. He could negotiate a consensus from hard-nosed Republicans and Democrats. I loved his speeches. I admired the way he took the broken Kennedy family and filled the role of the missing fathers while he championed the rights of all families.
I guess President Obama said it best. Much was expected of Teddy because of who he was, but he exceeded those expectations because of the man he became. Thank you, Kennedys, for sharing Teddy with us.
It is a sad farewell indeed, now that the last of the Kennedy brothers is gone. As your Gaelic ancestors would say:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.