By Rosalie Tirella
I was glued to the TV this past weekend, watching history unfold before my eyes: the wake of the late, great US Senator Edward Moore Kennedy, the funeral mass of Ted Kennedy, the goodbyes to Ted Kennedy. From folks in Boston, Massachusetts, from his colleagues/staff in Washington DC., from people all over the country. The entire American pageant.
I only cried at the end, when I had wisely switched to CSPAN for the gravesite ceremony. Thanks to CSPAN, there was almost complete silence as Kennedy was carried to his grave in Arlington Cemetery. No commentators bloviating, no melodramatic music piped in by the news channels to seduce you into a mood. You simply saw the silent end – heart-rending. To be put into the ground. To be covered with dirt. To be locked in the earth, darkness, forever. Even with the flag draped over Kennedy’s coffin, all the flowers at the cemetery, the “eternal flame” at the grave site, and brothers Jack and Bobby waiting silently in the earth nearby, you felt: Teddy will never see a tree again – or the sky. Oh, the exquisite pain!
I watched how the eight military men – army, navy, airforce – carried Kennedy in his flag-draped coffin to his grave. Four on each side of the casket, each team holding their side up. A physical job done with dignity and grace so that it looked beautiful. An honor for these young men – not a chore. You could hear the commands one gave to the others so that they would all walk in step/in time with each other. The calls to make the left or right turn – together, perfectly syncronized. You heard the almost whispered exhortations and you cried. You saw the young men’s thigh muscles strain beneath their crisply pressed white or navy blue pants. Their pleats were so straight! You thought: the casket is heavy, the grassy ground swelling, but they are marching so gracefully across it!
And then … sun sets. You, like Kennedy’s family, face the end of day, even though it wasn’t planned this way. Then the military men raise their arms and point their rifles to the orange sky and boom! boom! boom! boom!
Teddy’s grandchildren rush to his casket and put their arms around it. They want to touch it because it will be the last time they will be able to physically touch a part of Grandpa.
… We really are such stuff as dreams are made of.