Like many of us, I've been thinking about the impact on my life of Senator Kennedy. He'll always be Teddy to me - something he himself probably cringed at. And I suspect that now that his work here is done, he's at peace with his role in his larger than life family.
I share many qualities with Ted. I, too, am the youngest member of a large, loud, boisterous family. I, too, took on the mantle of the family tradition when others would not. I, too, made sacrifices, both personal and professional, for my family. And I believe that I, too, have learned to embrace who I am - separate from and yet still very much a part of my family of birth.
I share his Catholic upbringing, with an emphasis on servitude and gratitude. I had a father who was looked up to and admired by his peers. Not a wealthy man to be sure, but a man whose wealth went far beyond material riches and who was mourned at his death by everyone whose life had been touched by him. I have a mother who still dominates the center of our being. Old and frail she may be, but it is her love and approval we all still seek.
I first became aware of Ted Kennedy when he spoke at his brother Robert's funeral. Those words he spoke..."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."...I offer up for him today.
I was 9 years old then. Robert Kennedy had visited my home town of Grants Pass on his campaign for President. My mother took me out of school to see him. I had never missed school for anything before. Even Holy Days of Obligation were no reason to miss school. My church was across the street from my school and mass at lunch was how I spent those days. I was awed by the Kennedy charisma - swept up in the hope of a new world where my future education, employment, and health was to be assured. After all, we were Americans, pioneers, explorers, we could do anything we set our minds too. And on that awful June day, when I saw a man killed before my very eyes...a man I had seen in person...a man I had touched...something in me was crushed. And then to watch the televised funeral and to hear his brother speak of him with such love and such pain. I became a follower of Ted, and his efforts to make the world a better place were never off my radar.
Such a fine man he was. We are not likely to see his kind again. A man of great privilege whose life was marked with tragedies we can barely comprehend. To lose 3 brothers in such swift and violent ways. To have a child with cancer. To know the pain of alcohol abuse in his family and a failed marriage. To have his personal failings and faults so broadly exposed to the world. To walk in the shadow of his siblings and parents and somehow achieve greater things than any one of them ever did. By all accounts, he was more than an uncle to his brother's children. More than a colleague to his fellow senators. More than a statesman. More than a champion for social justice...for women and children, for minorities, for all. A true liberal who never shied away from that label. A good man whose good work will live on long after us all.
In his own words..."Every American should have the opportunity to receive a quality education, a job that respects their dignity and protects their safety, and health care that does not condemn those whose health is impaired to a lifetime of poverty and lost opportunity."
Let us honor him in our hearts, but more importantly, let us honor him in our deeds. The battle isn't over yet. And I'd hate to let Teddy down.
Rest Teddy. You've earned it.