I rarely watch over-hyped television events, but I couldn't tear my eyes away from Teddy Kennedy's wonderful Irish wake last night.
Since I grew up and still live in a largely Irish Catholic cohort, I don't know much about how other cultures usually deal with death. But I can tell you about the Irish side of my heritage: We do like to spit in the eye of death - with prayer, with jokes, with song. (And a side of sarcasm, please.)
And much like my own father's funeral, I got a much bigger picture of Ted Kennedy as reflected in the eyes of those who loved him.
But it wouldn't be a real Irish wake without this, one of my favorite Irish poems:
May those who love us, love us.
And those who don’t love us,
may God turn their hearts.
And if He doesn’t turn their hearts,
may He turn their ankles
so we’ll know them by their limping.
In Teddy's honor, we won't ever stop pointing to those limpers.
The Daily Beast:
Friday night's event commemorated both past and future, again beginning with the site. It was held at the John F. Kennedy Library, in an auditorium where Senator Kennedy used to hold dinners—shadow state dinners, really—to honor foreign leaders such as Czech President Vaclav Havel, Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and a variety of Irish politicians including Mary Robinson and John Hume. But the library is next door to a plot of land where the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Senate will rise. Boston's mayor Thomas Menino said it would provide "another lasting legacy of the Kennedys in Boston." Contributions to the project, budgeted at $100 million, have picked up since the senator's death, said its CEO, Peter Meade, and the public has been invited to contribute instead of sending flowers.
The night's speeches — a total of three-and-a-half hours that left the audience scrambling for cars in a downpour that is a foretaste of Tropical Storm Danny's promises for today -- alternated between solemn assessments of Kennedy's merits and accounts of his misadventures. The most entertaining of the latter came from John Culver, a former senator from Iowa and a college chum of Kennedy's. He told of being assured by Kennedy that "there's nothing to it" when he enlisted for a sailing race, and then being seasick, rain-soaked, and chilled for 24 hours while Kennedy shouted orders. "We were being bounced all over," said Culver, "and it's all my fault?" And Dodd told of a phone call from Kennedy earlier this month, when he was in a recovery room after prostate surgery. He said Kennedy told him, "Between undergoing prostate surgery and holding town meetings, you made the right choice."
Dodd turned serious then, listing some of the laws Kennedy sponsored in education, health and other areas, and compared him with his brothers: "John Fitzgerald Kennedy inspired America. Robert F. Kennedy challenged America. Our Teddy changed America."
Vice President Joe Biden told of how Kennedy "took on the role of being my elder brother" when he was in despair after his wife and daughter were killed and his sons gravely injured in a car crash just after he was first elected to the Senate. Kennedy urged him, again and again, to give the Senate a chance. He got him committee assignments, encouraged him to get involved, and then, when Biden suffered from brain aneurisms in 1988, took over his committee for him for months until arriving unexpectedly in Delaware to tell Biden he was needed and it was time to return.
Then Biden turned to the dozens of young Kennedys in the hall and said pundits were making a mistake when they said the era of Kennedy was over. "Because of you," he said, "the dream still lives."
The evening's final speaker made the same point. His niece, Caroline Kennedy, said, "We are the ones who have to do all the things he would have done, for ourselves and for our country."
Then the audience stood and all sang a favorite song of Kennedy's: "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling."
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