Saturday, August 29, 2009

missing ted

I'm late posting this tribute to Ted Kennedy. When I heard the news of his death I felt a deep sadness that has lingered with me throughout the week. It's a sadness for his family, the people he served, the political process he shaped and the lives he touched, and for me.

I confess that I was among those under the spell of Camelot. I had the privilege of spending summer vacations in Hyannisport, and early memories of watching Marine One fly into the Kennedy Compound are a part of my Kennedy consciousness. My sadness has roots in those memories that are woven of pieces of my own story with that of the world in which I grew up. I cannot seperate pictures in my mind of days on the beach and the influence of Camelot less than a mile down the shoreline. In an adulthood complicated by the sometimes unhappy mix of circumstances and personal choices, days of sailing in that harbor with my brothers and my father's unrelenting efforts to keep a path to the water free of seaweed beckon me from my difficult reality.

The gospel passion for justice championed by Ted Kennedy was a staple of my idealogical diet in those early years (and since), and it seems that fewer and fewer hearts in our modern world are willing or able to carry the banner that Ted raised high. He didn't do it alone. Like Moses raising the staff over his head, there were other arms lending support to keep visible and active the effort to look out for those who could not make do in the world to which their circumstances delivered them. But Ted was uniquely qualified to be the one who held that banner and bellowed for its victory. The loss of that voice is a tragedy for all people, including those with whom he disagreed. John Donne's famous words ring true this week: "Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee."

One of my favorite places in Scotland is the ruin of a castle that sits snug against the top of a hill in Perthshire. On either side of Castle Campell are streams of water, burns, as they are called, that carve a path in that hillside as they tumble down their separate ways to join as a single stream in the valley below. The poetic description of this topography is that the Burn of Care and the Burn of Sorrow come together to form the Waters of Grief. That description speaks to the loss this country is experiencing, even as it mirrors my own peculiar journey and life right now.

The loss is real. The sadness is real. The good news is that redemption is born of such grief. For us as a nation. For me as a sojourner. For any and all who seek to push past the crud of the day to reach for the mountaintop. The legacy of Ted Kennedy may well be that in spite of privilege, personal weaknesses, tragedy and victory, the effort to perservere and to seek justice trumps the obstacles in that path. The Waters of Grief as they flow away from care and sorrow are transformed into the glory of what is possible, and echo the words of the prophet Amos: "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream (5:14)."

Farewell, good and faithful servant. Well done.
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karen said...

I have tears in my eyes as I am watching his funeral...Tears for his family whose lives have been surrounded by tragedy, and heart ache. The Kennedy's truly are a legacy here in Massachusetts. I remember watching the funeral of JFK as a child and having no idea who he was. I knew he was the president, I refer the the "Kennedy" thing.
It really is the end of an era here in the Bay State.
Sad days...Thanks for your wonderful tribute!

Jayne said...

Amen. He may have not been politically popular, but he was a man of the people and will never be forgotten.

Mompriest said...

I too have so many memories of the Kennedy family - shaped and formed much of my childhood too -

Lovely reflection you offer here.

Sarah SSM said...

Thank you so much for offering this.

Jules said...

Your writing of Ted and his life could have been read at his tribute, it is so well written, heartfelt and true!


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