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It’s been almost 4 years since Senator Ted Kennedy died and I wrote this post/shared it on my blog in August 2009. At the time I was pregnant with our third child, our daughter Abigail, who was born the following month and still in the thick of my grief over the loss of our second child, our daughter Molly, who died soon after she was born in April 2008.
I have a thing for funerals/memorial services. Not that I ever want someone to die, especially loved ones, but I find them really moving. I appreciate hearing eulogies and knowing special stories and memories of how the deceased have touched others’ lives. I am inspired by their legacies and how their memories will live on in the hearts of their family and friends. Maybe it’s in my genes, as my paternal grandfather and his father were both funeral directors. My dad spent a good chunk of his childhood living on the second floor of a funeral home and has some great stories from back in the day. Can you imagine?
So when Bob saw me cleaning/organizing in our bedroom this morning, more “nesting” and last minute baby preparations, while watching the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s funeral on MSNBC, he chided me for my television program choice. I reminded him that I find such national/international memorial services to be interesting and inspiring, in addition to those of people we have actually known personally who have passed. I still recall waking up early one morning to watch the live coverage of Princess Diana’s funeral years ago and it wasn’t the first (and likely won’t be the last) time I have been so enthralled by memorial tributes to public figures.
Though I have been aware of Senator Kennedy for much of my life and of course “The Kennedys” as a large and influential family in our country’s political and social history, I didn’t recall that much about him and his professional accomplishments, let alone his role as the patriarch of his both famous and infamous family over the years. I found the service this morning to be very informative and was especially taken by the eulogies given by his two sons and then by our President Barack Obama. For those of you who didn’t see the funeral this morning, each of his sons and President Obama spoke in their own way about Senator Kennedy and how the losses of loved ones he suffered throughout his life were more than most could bear. They didn’t shy away from his personal failings and pointed out how he both learned from and grew through the poor choices and bad judgements he made at times.
They also highlighted the incredibly legislative legacy that he left, calling him one of the greatest senators of all time. I was moved by the many personal stories each of them shared about how he treated them as their father and/or a mentor and what an incredible father figure he was to his many nieces and nephews after his two brothers were shot and killed in the 1960s. They said that after the tragedies Senator Kennedy had been faced with in his life, many might have retreated and kept to themselves, not wanting to be in the public eye anymore. However, he did just the opposite making it his life’s work to fight for his family and the citizens of our United States to have civil rights and fair laws.
Towards the end of President Obama’s eulogy he shared about how Senator Kennedy had reached out to and built relationships with the families in Massachusetts (the state that he called home and represented in Congress) that lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. Apparently he called them all personally after our nation’s tragedy in 2001 and has maintained contact with them over the years, including taking some of the children of the deceased sailing (something Senator Kennedy loved to do in his free time).
President Obama shared that every year since, on the anniversary of 9/11, Senator Kennedy wrote letters to these families. According to President Obama, one 9/11 widow shared an excerpt from a letter she once received from Senator Kennedy and as he began reading it I was very moved. Having lost all four of my grandparents between 1995 and 2000, as well as other family members and friends that I have been close to over the years and of course our baby girl Molly most recently (in April 2008), I found the quote to be very inspiring. So with the help of our DVR, I was able to pause and rewind and replay the segment until I could transcribe the whole thing to save. Now I will share Senator Kennedy’s words with you:
As you know so well, the passage of time never really heals the tragic memory of such a great loss. But we carry on because we have to, because our loved ones would want us to and because there is still light to guide us in the world from the love they gave us.
~ Senator Edward M. Kennedy
Isn’t that just awesome?! I find those words to be very healing, especially as I reflect on our journey with our second child/daughter Molly and “carry on” preparing for the birth of our third child/second daughter due to be born sometime in the next three weeks. I wish for all of you that have lost loved ones (regardless of how young or old they may have been at the time) that you may also find some peace and hope in Senator Kennedy’s words as you “carry on.”
Rest in peace Senator Kennedy.
I still love the sentiments in this blog entry and appreciate revisiting it now and then.
My post was also featured in Melissa Ford’s Friday Blog Roundup (September 4, 2009). These are Mel’s words about my post: A post about the memorial service for Senator Kennedy. It is a beautiful post that contains a quotation written by Senator Kennedy and sent to the families of those who lost a family member on the anniversary of 9/11 (he sent a letter each year). And it’s the quote that entwines itself so deeply in not only Kathy’s situation and following that light right now, but they are beautiful words for anyone who has been through a loss.
If you have experienced loss in your life, what helps you to carry on?
Kathy Benson is a bereaved and blessed mom, writer and group fitness instructor trying to live mindfully and find joy in the journey after dealing with secondary infertility and loss for five years. She lives in Chicago, Illinois with her husband and two living children.