"The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die." Edward Kennedy
Watching the Ted Kennedy funeral and memorial services remind me of some of my first memories, the death of his brother, JFK. I don't think its a phantom memory, I do believe I remember this time in my life. I was 3 and 1/2 years old, I remember seeing my father cry. For some reason it is linked w/ sitting in Bill Riddle's restaurant w/ my father, eating a chili dog whose sauce I can never re-create, and hearing the news coming from the radio. I remember my father hurrying us home. Then follow blurry images, upset adults, black and white images from television, a horse with a backwards saddle, speeches, days of confusion...
I remember years later the death of RFK, the growing up of Caroline and John Jr., the death of John Jr. Always the Kennedys in the public eye, their lives intertwined with history and with mine in a distant way.
I remember thinking them privileged but dedicated to public service; noblesse oblige.
I have always wondered what the world would be like if JFK and RFK had not been killed. What if they had lived on to carry out their dreams; not leaving Teddy as the lone Kennedy, flawed, fallible but determined to carry on the family dream and mission.
This was read at Teddy's funeral mass:
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
This leads me to wonder what if we actually begin to live as practicing Christians rather than just mouthing the words. What if we actually put others first? Feed the poor? Clothe the naked? Heal the sick?
I wonder if we actually truly lived the Gospel what the world would be like. If we lived it in the government, in the schools, in our homes, in our hearts? Not just talking about it or using it to condemn others or wielding it as a tool of judgment, but instead to merely live it through our lives and hearts. What if we led by example? What if we let our works show our faith instead of our words? What if the whole world could instantly be converted into caring for the least of these? I have this vision that then there would be no inequality, no hunger, no poverty. There would still be pain, disease, and death. There would still be enough work that these ideals could be carried out. From the innocent children to the old and frail, to the animals, to the earth itself... there would still be natural disasters. But maybe, just maybe there would not be man made disasters or wars. Maybe the pain of the world would be lessened.
My heart aches for the world. For all the wounded people I encounter daily. As a social worker, I walk among the "least of these" daily. I see such wounded people that I cannot believe how such atrocity exists. It makes me question so much. At times even God. But then I realize that God has sent me there. Flawed as I am, wounded and weak, I am there for a purpose. I am just one person, but if I can go there, so can others, if these wounded people will let me let me in, open the door, then they will continue to let others in behind me. IF I live the Gospel. If I enter with God in my heart.
There was a time when the only Jesus I could relate to was the Christ child, an innocent baby born into poverty to loving parents.
It is only recently I realized I have begun to know the later Christ. The wounded, bloody, broken man who hung on the cross. Tortured, agonized, confused, crying out to his Father. Reluctantly accepting his job, his fate, his servant status.
I am not comparing myself to Christ by a long shot, I haven't his gifts for forgiveness, his grace, but I have begun to realize my life is not my own. That I am here to serve. That in all I do, in all I am, I am a servant. Yes I must rest and care for myself, but that is so I may care for others. I could have chosen many other paths, but it would not matter which way I would have gone, because on any road I would have traveled, I would have seen the least of these, and been compelled to stop and help. I understand Ted Kennedy. He was flawed, human, broken and incredibly fallible. But he tried so hard to help the poor, the homeless, the least of these. He tried to help the people I see daily and that I have grown to love.
Today my husband commented that Ted Kennedy may be the closest thing we have ever had to a Christian politician...
Rest in peace Teddy. May light perpetual shine upon you.