Oh, Ted Kennedy’s Dead?

About twenty years or so ago I was in some Irish type bar in Old Town Alexandria, just across that mud filled creek from Washington, DC, capitol of these Untied States.  (That’s not a typo.  It is the way I have chosen to refer to this place for a couple of years, now.)  I can’t remember the official reason for being down there.  It must have had something to do with my job, which at the time required that I endure the stupidity of the 35 million moles, gnomes, woodchucks and voles who moved in and out of all of those flat and square buildings across the mud from this nice bar I was in.

I was there with two other guys, Larry Mullins, R.I.P., a former Detective Sergeant from the NYPD who used to work for Frank Hogan, perhaps the best D.A. ever, and another guy, another agent like me, whose name I now forget.  We had drunk enough beer to fill that lake St. Brigid (Naomh Brid for the purists) wrote about, and were ready, now to sing.  The third guy said that we should sing “Ted Kennedy’s Jig”.

“Whose what!!??” we said.  “Don’t you know it?”  He asked.  We both, Larry and I, shook our heads.  “I’ll teach you, then,” he burped, and we all ordered another pitcher of beer.  Of course I’m exaggerating, here, about the beer, but not by much.  The beer came and he began the lesson in a very wet warble:

“Oh, your mother is dead and your father is dead

And your brother is dead and your brother is dead

And your brother is dead and your sister’s is dead

Your son has one leg and your wife is a lush.

Your nephew OD’d down at Miami beach

Your sister-in-law wed a filthy rich Greek

One sister’s a retard the other’s divorced

Peter Lawford is dead and your car doesn’t float.”

It will not be sung anymore, I think, and singing it then was, perhaps, more than should have been, decently, done.  Looking back on that in light of recent developments it occurs to me to wonder whether Ted Kennedy ever sat in the same place and heard the song sung late one night.

It is a very real possibility that he was in the place, of course, all those years ago.  All those years ago he was in and out of a lot of places I hope he wished, in the last seven months of his life he had never been.

It is the Feast of St. Augustine of Hippo today in case anyone was wondering.  And, unless you were asleep in your history, philosophy or theology…or even your psychology…classes you would remember that Augustine is one of the Dcotors of the Church, one of the Western world’s greatest philosophers, one of the founders of the thing we call Western Civilization and a bete noir of Freudians everywhere.

Before he became that, he led the kind of life that would have made him a shoe-in as a senior senator from Massachusetts or just about any state.  But, all that changed, as we know and to our lasting good.  He spent the last decades of his life building part of the foundation on which everything we cherish today now rests; everything we cherish and everything which is showing dangerous signs of fracturing and disintegrating.

Edward Moore Kennedy, may he rest in peace, will be praised by the famous and powerful and the poor and unknown for having been a man who devoted himself to making this vale of tears a little less painful, a little less arduous; for trying to ease the burdens of the heavily burdened.  He certainly, one may be allowed to say, made up over those nearly forty years in the Senate, for the way he lived and the example he gave for nearly the first forty years of his life.   Or, at least, he really seemed as if he were trying to do so.

The whole tale will not be told though.  After the prayers are said, after the tears are shed, there will come a dramatic pause and the President of the Untied States will eulogize him, laying to rest with his mortal remains any hint that his life was any less than one of great labor for and devotion to the “worthy causes” and the “good works”.

He will be remembered that way.  And, I do hope that it is the way he will have left on his final journey home.  It does no one good to speak ill of the dead, but, rather, to hope for their reconciliation.

St. Augustine of Hippo would have urged us to pray for him.  I will.

I should have prayed for him years ago, but I was too angry at him, then.  I can’t be anymore.  I only hope he sees and understands what he could not see and understand only a short time ago as he watches a long long line of people he could have helped, little people, waiting to greet him; people he could have helped, but chose not to; among them, certainly a young woman from somewhere in Pennsylvania whose life ended late one dark night.

Lord knows with that knowledge maybe he’ll be a good one to represent me in heaven, where I do hope he finally settles; the alternative being nothing to hope for anyone.  He can ask Augustine how to go about that, whom I have been asking for help for a number of years.

It is most Catholic, I think, the prayer “Good Saint Edward, pray for us.”  Most Catholic and most amazing for all of that.


11 responses to “Oh, Ted Kennedy’s Dead?

  1. I wish I had your generosity of spirit, Peter. I can’t bring myself to think anything but ill of the man. But you set a good example and I shall try to emulate it.

    • Good Morning Kevin,

      It is funny, Kevin, in a sad sort of way, that the whole Kennedy saga is now a nearly century long tragedy. I suppose it would take a Shakespeare to write it, or a Goethe or Dostoevsky, but it is a tragedy of near-Biblical proportions in my mind.

      They, and him especially because it lasted for so long, have wasted so much. His life should be taught in Theology courses.


  2. When I asked Jason (#2 son, 33 yrs old) if he’d heard that Ted K. had died, he said “yes”…..he didn’t say anything else for a few seconds, then he finally said…”my mom taught me if you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all.” 🙂

    • Hello Mary Lou,

      Jason is the one in Oregon? Send him my love, please? He lives in a place where what Ted Kennedy embraced for policy, among other things the “right” to choose the time, place and manner of your own death is a dangerous fact of life. It would be easy, I think, to speak ill of Kennedy, but something prevents me from doing that; decency perhaps, though I’ve never been very much a fan of it. He lived to be 77, and while doing as wee will hear and read over the next days and weeks, some good things, he caused and enabled the cause of quite a lot of pain. For that his death saddens me.

      And the reason I am sad, I suppose, is that I do not know if he made the effort at the end to cleanse himself. That’s something we should all hope he finally did.


  3. Ted’s sense of humor

    • That Kennedy joked about Chappaquidick is sad to know; along with so much about the fellow’s life that is sad. It should not be forgotten, along with the many other things he did and supported. But, “as far as the east is from the west/so far does He cast our sins from Him” is, I think, the way the Psalmist has it. It is what I hope will happen with me, and what I am called to hope will happen to Ted Kennedy. I am fortunate in that mine, my sins, are known only to a few. He, poor tragic slob, sinned right out there where everyone could see him.

      Perhaps, one may hope, too, he was given these last months to get ready, to even regret making jokes about dead young girls.

      And, if when my time comes, I approach God and see him standing somewhere around the crowd of saints, along with Augustine, and Peter and Magdalene and so many others, I will feel in good company.

  4. Peadar: I find your comments about Ted Kennedy offensive. Three of his brothers gave their lives for this country which is,of course, the ultimate sacrifice. To joke about someone who is mentally challenged or someone who has lost a limb to cancer is also outrageous. The tragedies in his life are the grist for Greek drama, yet he trudged on.

    • Claire,

      I think you have not read the entry closely. If, after doing so, you find yourself of the same frame of mind about what I wrote I will be happy to apologize for giving offense. It will not be the first time. And, it will probably not be the last. Having a care for what offends some people is not one of my strong suits.

      It seems not to have been one of the Senator’s either.

      One of the previous commenters, here, sent in a link to an article disclosing that Sen. Kennedy was eager to collect jokes about Chappaquidick at one point in his life. It is to be hoped that he changed his mind about that as time went on. Alas, we may never know so much about what he may have changed his mind about as his life drew to an end. But, we may hope, and with that hope pray.


      PS: The case can easily be made that many of the tragedies of his life were self-inflicted, but this is neither the time nor the place to deal with that. Out long standing custom of not speaking ill of the dead out of a sense of fair play demands that. Historians will make their assessments.

    • Three Kennedy brothers gave their lives for this country? One of them, Joe, most certainly did. But John and Robert gave their lives for political power. Whether they used that power “for this country” is a matter of opinion. Neither of those two lived long enough to leave a tremendous public legacy, good or bad, but Ted did. And it is a legacy of tremendous damage, in my judgment. On the personal level the man was an irresponsible father and husband, a user of women, an abuser of drink, and a coward on at least one tragic evening. But no one is perfect and I hope God will judge Mr. Kennedy as mercifully as he judges me. But I have every right to judge him on the political level, as does every American who lives under the many laws that he helped craft. I could go on about the ways he contributed to the decline of America, but you most likely would disagree so it is a pointless task. But as a Catholic surely you must be disgusted by this bloody legacy that is Ted’s: http://www.ontheissues.org/Social/Ted_Kennedy_Abortion.htm

      Yes, the Kennedy clan has a tragic history. But does that mean we must forget the evil (and yes, it is EVIL) that this particular Kennedy wrought? How is that you so easily dismiss Teddy’s many lapses and misjudgments (to put it mildly) and yet you are so much offended by Peadar’s tale about singing a ditty so many years ago? Your indignation is misdirected, as it was for all of those who continued to place Teddy Kennedy into the Senate. May God also judge them with mercy.

  5. Chapaquedic ted has finaly paid the piper for mary jo

    • Hello Bluebird,

      Well, it may be one way of looking at it. No one escapes death, so the inevitability of Kennedy’s is the same for all of us, whatever our “fines and penalties” due. I believe that whatever came due, what answers he had to give to what questions put, occurred after the event. We’ve all had nearly fifty years to consider what took place on that nigh, and only two persons know, Kennedy and The Watcher, who is also the Judge, and whose mercy is everlasting.

      Kennedy, the sad fool, himself paid dearly throughout his life, I think, for that and quite a number of other evils he committed and helped, in fact encouraged, others to commit.

      For all that, he found a few people willing to say nice things about him. Alas…

      Piping regards,
      Peadar Roe

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