This morning when I woke up I was in a funk - for no particular reason, just meh. I didn't turn on the TV before we left, nor the radio while in the car. The moment I got to my desk - literally before I even sat down - the phone rang and it was my husband who had just dropped me off. He had turned the radio on and heard the news about Ted Kennedy. He told me he considered not calling me since I was depressed already, but figured I'd hear about it soon enough, so he wanted to be the one to tell me.
I don't really know why Kennedy's death has affected me as much as it has - it was certainly expected. Other than the obvious reason that he was one more in a long line of early and tragic deaths in a family that has endured more tragedy than any family should.
Now, there's only one sibling, Jean, left from the most stunningly committed group of siblings I can think of. Think about their contributions to our country and in some cases the world - not just those of John, Bobby, and Ted - but Joseph Jr., Eunice and Jean as well. Talk about living up to JFK's "ask what you can do for your country" - despite all their flaws and missteps, they certainly walked the walk.
And now Edward is gone. He was 77 when he died.
During one of his last public appearances, when he defied all odds and appeared at the 2008 Democratic Convention he said health care was the cause of his life. He repeated those words in an article he wrote for Newsweek published just last month in which he wrote:
But quality care shouldn't depend on your financial resources, or the type of job you have, or the medical condition you face. Every American should be able to get the same treatment that U.S. senators are entitled to.
This is the cause of my life. It is a key reason that I defied my illness last summer to speak at the Democratic convention in Denver—to support Barack Obama, but also to make sure, as I said, "that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American…will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not just a privilege."
For four decades I have carried this cause—from the floor of the United States Senate to every part of this country. It has never been merely a question of policy; it goes to the heart of my belief in a just society. Now the issue has more meaning for me—and more urgency—than ever before. But it's always been deeply personal, because the importance of health care has been a recurrent lesson throughout most of my 77 years.
Is it cruel irony that he dies just as health care is at the cusp of reform or is it yet another tragedy? Now that his intelligence, experience and enthusiasm for this issue is needed most - now is when he leaves us.
He was no saint, he acknowledged and owned up to it in 1991 during a speech at Harvard:
"I recognize my own shortcomings, the faults and the conduct of my private life," Kennedy said. "I realize that I am alone responsible for this and I am the one who must confront it."
I don't think he was necessarily the most flawed of the Kennedy brothers, he was simply, and sadly, the one who lived the longest without the benefit of post-mortem forgiveness. He was also the one that was left to carry the burden of the family legacy and promise of greatness.
So yes, I'm sad. I'm sad that a man who had gone through a private (yet so public) hell for so many years and seemingly managed to quell his demons, was felled while still relatively young. I'm sad that he never saw his dreams of universal care achieved - possibly (hopefully) coming so close to it. And I'm sad because he was the last symbol of the elusive time which "for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot".
Rest in peace Senator Kennedy...you have so many waiting for you. And now "the boys" are finally together again.