The Kennedy name was always popular around my house since my father and grandparents came from Ireland. My family was among the countless number of people whose lives were touched by “Teddy”. In the early 60’s, my eldest nephew was born with severe mental retardation. The Kennedy family was involved in initiatives and programs in this field because of their personal heartache with their sister, Rosemary. My brother, Jack, who was president of the Rhode Island Retardation Association, worked on the legislation with Senator Kennedy to promote testing for the detection of PKU in newborn infants. PKU is a genetic disorder that can cause seizures and mental retardation, but if caught early it is a treatable disease. In 1963, Massachusetts and Rhode Island became the first states to mandate screening for all newborns, and today it is a standard test for all babies.
Because of this connection to the Kennedy family, I wanted to attend the Senator’s wake at the J.F.K. Library on Friday in gratitude for the many pieces of legislation he has sponsored and passed for this country.
Although the lines were long, and people were waiting for hours to pay their respect, the mood was respectful and somber. Many of the mourners were very emotional, and tears were the norm, rather than the exception for those waiting to express their gratitude for Senator Kennedy’s nearly half a century of service. One thing that I think I will never forget was the presence of so many of the family members, both children and adults who walked up and down the line extending their hand and expressing thanks for our presence. Among those who spoke to us were Robert Kennedy’s sons Robert Jr. and Max as well as their children. The expressions on the faces of the younger Kennedys were extremely poignant. They are so young, so poised and they seemed genuinely grateful and eager to carry out this role for their family.
The room where the Senator lay was very quiet. The constant presence of family and the sun splashed view of the harbor gave a familiar, loving feeling to the area which was in contrast to the formality of the military escort. The Senator’s daughter, Kara, stood off to the side, warmly greeting people as they left the viewing area. Joseph Kennedy and his wife sat in chairs near the Senator’s flag draped casket. My impression was that this was a family who was genuinely responding to the outpouring of affection and warmth. The youngest generation, following the example of their parents, was learning the family’s desire to be of service to others.
Once when asked why he worked tirelessly for justice, he responded, “Have you never read the New Testament?”
Maggie Fisher, SCN
In the stillness of a late August summer night thousands upon thousands of people gathered at the JFK Library situated on the banks of our beloved Boston Harbor. In somber peace and gratitude we gathered (SCNs Grace Whittaker, Ann Whittaker and Anne Marie O’Shea) to honor a man who championed the cause of justice and peace – who lifted up the poor and lowly; who welcomed the new immigrant; who fought for health care for all. Senator Kennedy worked tirelessly on countless legislative bills that recognized the rights of all Americans.
We proudly stood in this line slowly snaking its way toward the hall where Senator Kennedy lay in repose. We had arrived via train. Free shuttle bus service brought us to the library. When we arrived, we thought we were at the end of the line. Approaching the hour of 11:00 p.m., we realized that there were six thousand people still behind us.
The event was superbly organized. Volunteers assisted the waiting crowd: boy scouts, girl scouts, youth from City Year, EMT, police and fire personnel, and many, many others. We stood with the throng of people – thousands ahead of us, thousands behind us…all ages, cultures, diversity of religious backgrounds and political parties. The couple in front of us were Republicans from RI. “I voted for McCain,” he said.
“I am a Republican but I wanted to be here – Ted Kennedy deserves to be honored.”
How touching it was to see members of the Kennedy family graciously moving throughout the crowd thanking people for coming. As we approached the Library entrance, Ted Kennedy Jr. stood shaking hands, hugging people, expressing appreciation for the condolences his family was receiving.
After waiting in line for three hours, we entered the Library. There were stunning photos of Senator Kennedy displayed and inspiring quotes from his many speeches and legislative bills. The hall where Senator Kennedy lay in repose was a still and holy space. The military honor guard stood reverently and invited guests sat vigil by the flag-draped casket. No one was rushed through this line. Some visitors made the sign of the cross, others knelt, genuflected, bowed, some cried or sent a gesture of blessing. We lingered as long as we could. This was a sacred place and we did not want to leave.
This experience was very moving and inspiring for us. We signed the condolence book as representatives of the SCN Community. Ted Kennedy’s heart was filled with love and compassion. We want to continue his legacy with our commitment to justice and peace. We give thanks for this man of courage who gave so much to our country and to our world. May Senator Edward M. Kennedy rest in peace and may light shine on him forever.
Grace Whittaker, SCN
Ann Whittaker, SCN
Anne Marie O’Shea, SCN
Just returned from Kennedy Library, ten minutes away. I can see it from my apartment window. It’s a gorgeous day with sailboats afloat. The area now quiet except for the twenty in line to sign the book bedecked with two white vases of roses on a white table-clothed arrangement inside the door. Being in a reflective mood, I walked the grounds recalling my memories. First, dear Aunt Mary Ward who delivered both John and Robert at their Brookline Home and with two other nurses cared for them until their father went to England as Ambassador.
I cared for her and Honora when working at Marian Manor, where they died. Then, John Kennedy spoke at AWH when we were there as a Senator. My Nana Walsh was a Fitzgerald, I wear her wedding ring. Honey Fitz sold papers with my Dad in the West End. The one Christmas I flew home to visit (as a surprise) Dad and I went to Filene’s Basement. There he met JFK’s Uncle, returning a Christmas tie! Dad introduced me. His eyes filled with tears when Dad told me who he was. JFK had recently died.
Then there was Jackie, Fan’s friend at Poland Springs. I recall her riding horses, always alone. At night she would watch the stars through the telescope, a child of nine years.
The Mission Church was a weekly scene for Wednesday devotions with Fr. Manton, another Fulton Sheen. Our grandmother climbed the hill daily for Mass. Our parents were married at the Shrine. Nana saw a miracle there. A light shot through the church. A woman paralyzed rose from her wheelchair and walked.
I left a card there which promises the prayers of my community as a memorial from all the Sisters of Charity. His goals were as ours. May we live to see them fulfilled.
Martha Walsh, SCN
When I was at OLN from 1970 through 1975 the three daughters of Edward Moss, Ted’s aide who was killed in that plane crash were students. Ted came and spoke at each of their graduations. In fact we had to delay the one graduation unexpectedly for one week as he was engaged in prolonged negotiations in the Senate. The graduating seniors unanimously wanted to wait for Ted. He stayed each time and met with students and families after the ceremony.
Eleanor Martin, SCN
I met Teddy with the farm workers in October 1980 when he came to thank us; I was head of the south Texas (about 5-6 counties) delegation to 1980 Texas Democratic Convention.
At my Final Profession celebration at the UFW Hall in San Juan, Joe Kennedy came to announce and kick-off Teddy’s campaign in Texas. Current UFW pres, Arturo et al were in Texas with 40 workers from CA.
Tess Brown, SCN
Today, September 4, 2009 I had the privilege to go to Arlington Cemetery to put flowers on my grandparents’ grave which is directly across from the graves of JFK, RFK and now Teddy. My mother and aunt went with me. Since my mother and father took me to JFKs funeral when I was in the sixth grade I needed to return to Arlington as I have many times since to pay my respects too and to ask Teddy now that he is “on the other side of Easter” if you could work miracles with health care and comprehensive immigration reform quickly.
Brenda Gonzales, SCN