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INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT
30 August 2009
With all the emotional events surrounding the passing of Ted Kennedy, in the end it was a simple thing, unnoticed by the commentators, that really got me.
As the funeral procession passed slowly through Washington, it rounded a corner. There were police lining the route but there was one lone policeman who snapped to attention and saluted. I looked around at his fellow officers and others on the street, but it was only this one man who saluted. (Later on in the route, several officers did, but this was the first I saw). I found it very moving because it was spontaneous, unscripted, unaccompanied by grand speeches, and just one man's tribute to a man he obviously admired.
I watched "at," rather than watched the ceremonials surrounding the burial of Senator Kennedy. It seemed that it was 24/7 coverage, when you add in the many specials that were used as fillers between major events. How many times can you watch Chris Matthews' "The Kennedy Brothers"?
It was interesting to see the coffin lying in state in the JFK Library because we were in Boston a couple of years ago and toured the library, so I could picture exactly where it was and could see the unseen portions of the room as I watched mourners pass by to pay their respects. (It's like watching movies filmed in San Francisco -- somehow it means more when you can picture where things are actually taking place.)
I loved the memorial the night before the funeral Mass. That may be the only part that I actually sat and watched, though it went on and on and on...but this was not an event played for the media; it was a good bye party among good friends, friends who had funny stories, moving stories, and music to share. If Orrin Hatch rambled a bit long (making Joe Biden look positively terse), who cared? He was sharing fun stories about his good friend.
Chris Dodd had a wonderful quotable moment: John Kennedy inspired America, Bobby Kennedy challenged America, but Ted Kennedy changed America (or words to that effect).
We learned a lot about Kennedy--well I did. I didn't realize that he painted (apparently quite well). I was moved to hear that he called every family of every Massachusetts person killed on 9/11...and kept in touch with them for years after 2001. He also contacted the family of every Massachusetts soldier killed in Afghanistan or Iraq. Did those things without fanfare and without publicity. I loved the obvious adoration that his kids, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren had for him. He seems to have been a genuinely good man.
How wonderful it must be to have so many friends stand up and say "he was a friend of mine..." How nice to have your friends Yo-Yo Ma, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Placido Domingo lend their considerable talents to your memorial.
But somehow I also noticed who wasn't there. President Obama was there. Former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were there. Where was George H.W. Bush? I also wondered about Joan Kennedy, the former Mrs. Ted. I checked the internet to find out if she was still alive and the most recent article I found out about her concerned her being found passed out on the streets of some city and the battle with her children who were attempting to become conservators for her, since she was incapable of caring for herself. So sad. The senator's second wife appears to have been wonderful for him. But I feel sad for Joan.
People were impressed with the number of staffers and former staffers who lined up on the capitol steps as the funeral procession passed by, but I also noticed that some streets were lined with people waiting for the caravan, but only one deep and nobody on the other side of the street.
On MSNBC they had the courtesy to keep commentary to a minimum, except for the long stretches when nothing was happening. We didn't hear a running commentary about the people gathered at each of the venues. And God, in Her infinite wisdom allowed the actual burial ceremonies to take place in the dark, where there was no way cameras could film -- coincidental, of course, but I thought rather nice, giving the family complete privacy for that final private moment.
With all of the accolades and hyperbole and the good will and tears that were shed, I happened across a poll that was taken on some news site and was surprised at the results.
Sad that after a lifetime of legislative success, 1/3 of the people will always remember Senator Ted Kennedy as the man who was responsible for the death of Mary Jo Kopeckne.
A man of many complexities and, to tell you the truth, tho I cried at all the emotional parts of the day today, I don't really know how I will remember Ted Kennedy. But I suspect that my feeling about the man were significantly shaped by all of the things I learned about him since his death.
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