Saturday, August 29, 2009

What Senator Kennedy Gave Me Today

Summer of Death. That's what the morning DJ I listen to on the way to work coined it the day after Eunice Kennedy Shriver died. Little did he probably think that a very short time later her more famous brother would join the long list of famous names who have passed on since Memorial Day. I won't try and list them all, but if you think about it, it has been a rather long list of famous names, some old, some not, who we wake up to read about everyday. Of course, in the shadows all across the nation are small and unnoticed additions to those departed titans. For me personally, I have been to two funerals just since Kelsey's. After the last service, for the mother of a friend, I said to myself that I'd have enough for a while and unless the person was very close to me, I was going to let the next few go on by. Well, I didn't exactly do what I said. I've been glued to MSNBC all day watching Senator Kennedy's funeral. I'm not sure if that counts as attending one, but it felt as though I were there at times.

Of course, for me and my "liberal nut" ways (a quote from the parents of my daughter's boyfriend), Senator Kennedy's passing was a reason for great sadness, but not surprise. We all knew that he was facing an imminent death. He handled it with a grace and acceptance that long suffering had taught him. He was no stranger to Old Man Death, having watched it take so many of his siblings and try to work on his children. And of course, there were the other controversies he had endured, the drinking, the divorced Catholic and the big one, Chappaquiddick. If you don't know what that refers to, then that just illustrates that he overcame what would have doomed almost anyone else. Even I remember his public statement as the first real memory I have of him. He led a full life, but it was full of troubles and sorrows as well as joys.

I sat down to watch the funeral this morning a little battered and bruised by the events of the week. I had walked out of a staff meeting earlier in the week, my first staff meeting since going back to work, when they showed a rather sensational video from YouTube to try and illustrate how serious they were about employees not texting while driving. It shows a car full of young women get into a wreck because they were texting rather than watching the road. The wreck is over done and like a scene from Final Destination. I even joked about it. But, then the girls in the car begin screaming. I don't know why, but I immediately could not handle it. Sitting in the far corner, I got up and quickly left to go back to my desk. I had to pass by absolutely everyone. I have no apologies for doing it, but it put a light on my circumstance that I had not wanted. Since then, I have been treated a bit like something made of sharp glass, even by people who know me fairly well. The job I was grateful for because it took my mind off the weight of my circumstances for chunks of time is no longer that haven. A group was planning a happy hour yesterday that the man who sits closest to me was very excited about, encouraging everyone to go. Everyone but me. No one spoke to me about it. I wasn't interested in going, but the lack of mention was noticeable. Suddenly, I have made everyone uncomfortable when all I wanted was a place to work. And then there was the death certificate, which was finally ready. At first, that was actually a lift. I described it to our grief counselor as putting a period on the end of a very long run on sentence. But, it began a new sentence, which is how to process what it contained. And, that sentence was punctuated painfully by the reaction that my daughter had to it when I told her about it. She had already had a hard week, really missing her sister. No one, she explained to me, knew her like her older sister, and she could tell her absolutely anything and have her understand it. I can't replace that for her, I didn't even try to tell her that I could. She's right. They shared a common upbringing, had struggled together, overcome together and then struggled again. They fought like crazy, but there was never any doubt they had a deep and abiding love for one another and now that is lost. To make it more poignant, Marissa moved into her dorm and began college classes, something she knows her sister will never do. She was carrying some guilt around as a result, and I came along and crushed her with the news of the death certificate. The final nail in this week's coffin came for me, however, when the night of the infamous staff meeting, I got a call from Mother's nursing home. A flustered male nurse wanted me to come up there because Mother wouldn't take her medication. I tried calling her room, and the same nurse picked up the phone. She refused to speak to me, but I could hear the exchange. She was belligerent and uncooperative. He was clearly flustered and afraid of getting in trouble if she wouldn't take it. I refused to go, having had a drink. I probably could have made it the two miles without getting pulled over for one adult beverage in my system, but what I worried about was how I would react once there. I doubted I would calm the situation. All of these things together made me feel hopeless, tired and ready to throw in the towel, Terrible or otherwise.

So, with that attitude, I sat down to watch a the lead "liberal nut" be laid to rest. The service touched me, of course, but seemed to speak to me in a way I was not anticipating. Throughout, there were references to how much he had suffered and lost,and how he had carried on, at times because "he had to". There was no choice. And I ruminated on those words. Because that is very true. I get up every day and function because I have to. I have obligations. But, I had began to feel resentful and overwhelmed by them. Today, I was reminded that others have suffered as much or more than me and not only survived, but overcame. For some reason, all of that was more to me than just words. I believe in what I heard. Maybe because I admire Senator Kennedy, but I never saw him as more than he was, which was a flawed human being. For him to overcome all of that to achieve what he did is all the more amazing. If he can do it, then so can I. It doesn't mean I won't have more bad days. As a matter of fact, it doesn't mean I won't struggle to get through them. But, the gift he gave to me today is the strength to tell you that I will.

1 comment:

  1. I feel the same way. John F. Kennedy seemed born to greatness, Robert seemed to have greatness thrust upon him, but Ted Kennedy earned it. That is the way I see it. He earned it. One day at a time, one win at a time, one loss at a time. He was as far from perfect as you can get and not be thrown in jail and he overcame that too.