I watched Ted Kennedy's funeral mass this morning, as I watched Obama's inauguration, Bush's first inauguration, Reagan's funeral, JFK's funeral and every single episode of West Wing ever taped. I love this stuff.
I have been slow to warm to Ted Kennedy's late life renaissance; his strong appetites and young second wife never helped me to take him seriously as a statesman or political figure of stature. But the people from both sides of the aisle who mourn and grieve his death have made me know that they, along with many others, saw a side of him that was not visible to me; the fervent, unconditional endorsement of his children as a world class father gives him a credential that even Ronald Reagan never was able to obtain. So I settled in after cardio this morning to watch his people say good bye to him. I was touched many, many times.
A few observations:
Only in America, only in NORTH America, do the television commentators have to explain the aspects of the Catholic mass, the rite of worship from which all other Christian rites of worship fall. Lord Have Mercy.
Many people, all Republican, still hold Mary Jo Kopechne and dissolute living against Ted Kennedy. I suspect most of those people are Protestants as redemption is something that Protestants just don't or refuse to understand. We were taught redemption in only the most academic of manners as young Protestants. But Ted Kennedy was a living model of redemption, of a man who kept working at getting it right and finally, late in life, succeeded. The power of redemption is holy and is one of the most underrated things of life in the New Millennium and it's a little more real and actual than the blood of Jesus washing away the "sins" of "man". Kennedy was a sinner among sinners, but he never gave up and never gave in to failure or tragedy, nor let his heart become bitter and hardened.
As long as we're on Protestants and their numerous shortcomings, I think one of the major failures of the Protestants is not teaching the papacy and why The Holy Father Himself is critical to the Protestant doctrines. Why don't good little Presbyterian and Baptist boys and girls have an understanding of The Pope and his authority and stature in Christianity? Ted Kennedy, like many people in political service, was a deep and devoted follower of American History and believed you couldn't go forward until you fully understood where you came from.
One of his sons eulogized Senator Kennedy as a guy who taught him to like Republicans and briefly discussed the obvious value of such. Right on Brother! Much of the civility and dignity has gone out of politics in recent years; the atmosphere of holding each other in a certain regard irrespective of party affiliations is something many American voters, including me, long for. I am reminded of Ron Rankin of Kootenai County in Idaho, a tried and true Republican if there ever was one; in fact, a Newt Gingrich Republican. But Mr. Rankin, as I knew him, was different because he maintained relationships with everyone and worked with anybody in a effort to lower taxes and reduce government. Mr. Rankin was an easy guy to respect, like his mantra or not, and a guy willing to do what it took within the bounds of decency to deliver outcomes for the taxpayers of his district. Ron Rankin was as partisan as they came and fiercely defended the tenets of the GOP platform, yet he never lost his civility nor his sense of humor. I yearn for relational politics instead of transactional politics.
President George W. Bush was there, looking sad and miserable. Could it be that he, too, longs for redemption? I give Mr. Bush Big Ups for showing up.
My favorite quote of the Senator Kennedy's is this: Don't let the perfect become the enemy of the good. He was speaking in reference to enacting legislation but for people like me, this is a short and simple warning about the seductions afoot regarding things in life that just aren't art forms. Like life itself, for instance.
The message of his sons' remarks about him was hope and redemption: "The work begins anew, the hope rises again, and the dream lives on." --August 2008, from his address to the Democratic National Convention
But my favorite, except for what Ken Burns said on the night Mr. Kennedy died, is what Alfred, Lord Tennyson said and Mr. Kennedy's nephew repeated in The Prayers of The Faithful:
May it be said of us now:
"I am part of all that I have met;
For much is taken, much abides.
That which we are, we are.
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Strong in will.
To strive, to seek, to find
and not to yield. "
May God have mercy on us all.
The 'Kan EWA