Since I learned of the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy, I've been puzzling over what to say. Knowing this was coming doesn't make it any easier; I'm relieved that his suffering is finished, but I'm devastated at this great loss. To say I admired and respected him just doesn't do justice to what I feel.
Kennedy was a giant of a man and his faults were also huge. Around this part of Pennsylvania Chappaquiddick is never far from people's thoughts of him since Mary Jo Kopechne, his passenger in the car who died, was from PA. I heard an interview on television yesterday though in which I think the interviewee had a real insight - that Chappaquiddick and the Florida rape trial of his nephew were turning points in Kennedy's life, and thereafter he devoted his life and political power to doggedly fighting for John Q. and Jane Public in attonement for those tragedies.
Whatever the case, he certainly did fight for us, using every bit of that Kennedy charm and his political savvy to make our lives easier. He didn't care about the wealthy. They didn't need his help. He cared about the rest of us. When the Senate reconvenes shortly, he will be there in the minds and hearts of his colleagues from both sides of the aisle. I can only hope the Senators will be prompted by his memory to cooperate, negotiate, and find common ground to pass a health care reform bill that will really help the American people.
Other families have suffered tragedies like the Kennedy family, but Kennedy tragedies were played out in the public eye, beginning with aviator Joe's death when Ted was only 12. Anyone who knows anything about Joseph and Rose Kennedy is aware that their children didn't have an easy life despite their weath. Their parents expected impossibly high standards, but I believe their daughter Eunice exceeded even their expectations. Her devotion to mentally and physically challenged young people and founding of the Special Olympics is one of the greatest Kennedy legacies of all.
The world won't see the likes of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Sen. Ted Kennedy again. Rest in peace.