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.