“So many wounds to be healed….”

August 30, 2009


I am among the many who are  mourning for and reflecting on the death — and life — of Senator Ted Kennedy.   This is not a political context at all — it is a reflection on  transformation – in this case, the transformation of the  man himself, revealed in what he has done,  yet given by something deeper.

What occurs for me is that one way that people develop compassion  is to “crash and burn” themselves — to experience their own “dark night of the soul”, to stand on the edge of the abyss,  and then to make a deep inner shift – a choice to be different — in order to take up the charge and lead others into the light…

It would be euphemistic to say that Senator Kennedy had,  on occasion,  exhibited poor judgment in his personal life…  a sadness for him — and for all of us – because of what had gone before.   Why shouldn’t we have hoped for yet another round of greatness from a family for whom greatness was known and from which greatness was expected?

He was a disappointment to all of us….

It seems to me that Ted Kennedy must have made a profound personal choice somewhere in that abyss…  to shift from a man who was simply raised to “do the right thing” – more of an “automatic” behavior” — without necessarily taking on the personal responsibility that goes along with that – to become a man who took a stand for himself and for the world. ..  then took the actions given by that stand — to make a difference for all people…

A shift from having it all be about “me” to having it not be about “me” at all…  or, in this case, “Ted”…

That takes a sense of responsibility, a deep love, a great compassion…

My mother used to tell me that we would all eventually  get knocked to the canvass in life – What will we choose to do when that happens?   Would we stay “knocked down” and forever-after live a life of what “might have been?”  Or would we pull ourselves up, bloodied and broken, from the mat – and take that next shot,  step that next step, and do what is before us to do?   

We all get to choose…

It was, of course, no surprise that he died – it was expected, really…  He had been ill for over a year now…  In a way, he was given a gift…  a gift that his brothers did not get.. the gift of time – to be with family, to die where he wanted to die, with the people he loved around him…   Brain cancer or no… I cannot think of a better way to go…

I saw him once not long ago…  and that fleeting peek into the character of a man revealed to me the thing I most admired about him…  his love for his family —  and his faith…

I ran across the street one Sunday morning to my little chapel of a church for 10:30 Mass.  As I walked to my usual front row seat in the tiny church of only six rows, I glanced to my right and there, in the other front row pew, was Senator Kennedy, his wife, and,  in a wheelchair in the center aisle, his sister.   It would have been rude to stare — and certainly there are other things to pay attention to at Mass, but I managed to steal a few furtive glances…   What I saw was a man whose very being was that of humility and service…  humility before God and service to his sister… solicitous of her every need while deeply given to his own devotion…

I got it on a whole new level that here was a man who had suffered… and perhaps was suffering still  in many ways…  who had raised himself up from that proverbial mat to go forth and live another day in the best way he knew how…  in love, in compassion, in faith… 

As President Obama said at the funeral, Ted Kennedy lived through  “a string of events that would have broken a lesser man…”   Yet, it is  that note that I believe to be the real lesson of Ted Kennedy’s life….   a life that, early on,  was over-shadowed by brothers whose heroic proportions  seemed impossible to surpass — exacerbated by his own failings  that appeared  to seal his fate as the “lesser” brother…     Indeed, a lesser man…                              

And that lesson is — there are no “lesser” men…  there are only men — or women —  who do not get up from the mat … 

We can — if we choose — dig deep for that “divinity” within us  — that well of creation from which we can draw–  and cause ourselves to be reborn out of the ashes of defeat and despair  —  to rise up and step  into what God has given to each and every one of us…

Our own Greatness…..

Maybe we won’t be famous or rich or make a difference for millions of people through life-altering legislation…

AND… as the Talmud says, “If you save one person, you save the world…”

How do we save the world?   Show up, share what we  have, and love them…..  one person at a time….

This is what Ted Kennedy did…

The piece that moved me most during the funeral was when President Obama read the letter that Jackie Kennedy Onassis wrote to Ted Kennedy….  “We are all going to make it because you were always there with your love.”

…that  is the measure of the man…. the measure of us all….

Deliciously yours in the Grandeur of it All, Linda 

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”     …Ernest Hemingway

“And so our job here on earth, the way we regain our divinity, our sacredness, and our general good-standing is by reconstructing love and creating love out of the broken pieces that we’ve been given.”   …Bruce Springsteen

“If you have made mistakes…there is always another chance for you…you may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.” … Mary Pickford (1893-1979) Canadian Actress

Note:  For those who have asked, the title of this blog is from Billy Joel’s song, “2000 Years”.

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

6 Responses to ““So many wounds to be healed….””

  1. Beautiful. Love the quote from the Talmud — powerful.

  2. Bill said

    forgive me, but this is the end of the line for me. between wall street and governors, and senators all caving in to depraved lives, I find it hard to give this man any credit, as you do. its not about forgiveness–ask the Kopechnes (sp) about that. I am tired of many folks saying how great these depraved cretins are in their death, and forgetting how rotten they were/are while alive. this is a soap box I could stand on for every day of the rest of my life. who will hold them accountable, for mankind, if not you? The Lord will judge Kennedy in his own way. sorry, the guy, and the whole family, are turds by any decent measurement tool. That said, I am very grateful that you can find Kennedy so benign in his death, and remember him so nicely. Maybe you will be that kind in memory to Manson, Hitler, Mussolini, me, and the Beast. Remember that the Lord put all of us there for a reason, just as he permitted Judas to complete his act against Jesus. While we must necessarily forgive, it does not mean we should continue to exercise poor judgement in future actions. Ah well, you have a strength, an inner strength, that is boding well for you Linda, and I applaud you for that.

  3. spiritualchocolate said

    Dear Bill…

    Yes, it IS about forgiveness…

    …and, love, and responsibility, and compassion…

    As another line in the song from which I took the title, Billy Joel’s “2000 Years”, “…without compassion, there can be no end to hate… no end to sorrow…”

    It is not necessary to be “kind in memory” — there are many acts of evil that it is important to remember in order to learn from them — it is, however, necessary to forgive…. Lack of forgiveness is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die…. where does that leave you?

    As for you and Jim, what on earth is there to forgive anyway? We are all simply living our lives and doing what we do — love, compassion, forgiveness and responsibility give us the opportunity to transcend our physical selves and access our own divinity…. See the quote at the end from Bruce Springstein…

    Thank you for reading, Bill… xoxo

  4. Stephen St. James said

    Linda, I was in grade school when Jack was murdered and so have grown up with this family. Their history inextricably woven into mine. I have had a sad, quiet sort of feeling about Teddy’s passing that I couldn’t quite express. As I read your blog I found myself saying, “Yes, yes, that’s exactly it! That’s exactly what I want people to think about Senator Kennedy’s life.” To praise his liberal fights in the Senate for the disenfranchised is to invite the conservative in the gym locker room to throw a practiced barb. I have in fact been disgusted by several comments and shocked by the lack of respect some politically conservative men have shown. To stubbornly remain on the right or left of the isle is to miss the true value of the man. What you have written is the real lesson to be learned. A lesson for all of us still here on the planet we share. I am going to print your words on parchment paper and frame it. I will hang it on the wall to inspire my child and remind me of what life is really all about. Thank you and bless you for putting into words what I have been feeling in my heart. Well done.
    Stephen St. James September 1, 2009

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