Last year after attending a friend's funeral, I wrote a personal narrative of the end of his life's story to be shared with friends and the family left behind. In part, I wrote: "if the amount of people showing up for one's funeral was truly a measurement of how they loved and affected so many, Tim's funeral tipped the scales. The church was filled with so many people that came to know Tim and came to know his love for all of us. In his short life, he touched so many with his larger than life persona and I feel truly blessed to be one amongst so many."
While my friend died at the age of 50 and Senator Edward M. Kennedy died at the age of 77, both men loved life fiercely and were larger than life. As the media interviewed those who knew Kennedy, they spoke of his thunderous laugh, my friend Tim also had a similar laugh.
In watching the full coverage via MSNBC where Senator Kennedy's casket moved from Hyannis Port to the JFK Library, the throngs of people who came to show their respect for him truly was remarkable. As they gathered on the streets of Hyannis, the highways to Boston and the city streets of Boston, it was breath taking. I sat fixated watching the mournful and thankful faces of those he served so well. To see them lined up three-deep to wait for hours to say their final good byes, their thanks and say their final prayers, it was riveting.
In between meeting up again with past members of his family who went before him, I am most assured he was smiling down from the heavens above. One can almost hear his befallen brothers, Joe, Jack and Bobby saying: "You fulfilled your destiny in the service of mankind. Now rest my brother."
I did not know that the funeral mass would be televised, but I am thankful to whoever decided it should be. My guess it was the Kennedy family itself. We who loved him also got to attend it from afar. I truly believe that as it rained, they were tears of a nation pouring down on the city of Boston, a city he so loved. To see throngs of people gathered in that working class neighborhood who could not view the mass, but came none the less was a tribute to his life's work on behalf of the poor and powerless.
As Teddy Kennedy Jr. recounted his amputation due to leg cancer, I do remember writing him at that time how sorry I was and my hopes for his quick recovery. I cried when he brought that up for another reason than the one he so beautifully expressed. After writing that note to him, I received one back from Teddy Kennedy Jr. thanking me in his personal handwriting. As a young teenager, I was simply floored and humbled that he took the time out to write me. It became my connection to the Kennedy family and how I wish I could find that note today. Even without the tangible proof in hand, it is the very memory of opening up that letter to me, I will take with me as I live out the rest of my days.
As he made his way to be in the company of his brothers, Jack and Bobby, it was suitable it happened as the sun set and where cameras could not capture each and every moment of a family's good bye to a dearly departed. After all, burial services are more for the family. Perhaps after decades of losing family members, they needed their privacy to grieve without the American people being a part of it. This family after all gave so much to us.
In viewing all of the ceremonies that paid tribute to such a wonderful man and leader, I gathered my children for the most important parts. I felt it was history and remembered how Senator Kennedy's niece Caroline stated he was now a part of history.
While an empty hole has been left in the senate, it is my hope that the other 99 senators take into account the thousands and thousands who came out on days that were hot and humid to a day filled with torrential rainfall to know how one man touched a people. It is my hope they can ask of themselves will that many show up for my funeral should I die quickly or after a lengthy illness?
Here is my personal opinion, if consistently saying no to getting the people's business done such as health care for every single American citizen, the answer will be no. Do what Teddy did, get what you can now to cover some and keep on coming back to include more and more until each and every American is covered. After all, through our taxes each and every one of you are covered.
In closing, my heart aches tonight as Senator Edward M. Kennedy has left us all. I sat transfixed to listen to each and every account of his life by so many including the President of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, his family, friends, colleagues in the senate and local government. If I could add to the mix, I would say thank you on behalf of a grateful nation, Senator Kennedy. You did good! As a New Yorker, you were my senator. Be at peace and rest.