A Spontaneous Trip and a Fitting Tribute

I don’t have a story about lining the route of the funeral procession, either at the Sagamore Bridge or the State House. I don’t have a story about waiting hours in line past midnight at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum for a chance to see Sen. Ted Kennedy‘s casket and pay my respects. Heck, I even flaked on watching the funeral on television.

I do, however, have a story about going to the JFK Museum with my mom nearly seven hours before Teddy would arrive, more or less on a lark, just to see what was going on.

I was with my mom yesterday to help her out with a couple of errands. But with those more or less done by 9:30, and six hours left on my Zipcar, I suggested zipping up I-93 to go to the museum. We got there around 10AM, walking past a growing collection of TV trucks, reporters, and cameramen, and went first to the pavilion. There were remembrance books to sign and photos of the senator set up. From the pavilion, you have an incredible view of the Boston skyline and the harbor. You are surrounded by informational placards about the Library’s “Profiles in Courage” series, inspired by JFK’s book about eight senators who defied political convention and comfort to take a stand on an issue.

My mom and I both signed the book. I considered taking a photo of what I wrote, but I thought that would be tacky. I’m pretty sure I wrote something along the lines of, “Thank you for all that you were, and all you expected us to become.”

I had never been to the museum before, and I thought the exhibits were great. They do a great job of immersing you in the JFK experience. But as we toured the exhibits, I initially thought it was unfortunate that we had to go to his brother’s museum to honor Ted Kennedy, that there was no place of his own where everyone could congregate. As I thought about it more, though, I realized this was as much his place as it was JFK’s. Ted Kennedy poured a lot of himself into creating this monument to his brother and all that he stood for. While only a small section toward the end is set aside with memorabilia relating specifically to Teddy, as opposed to the entire recreated office for RFK, that section is sure to expand. I suppose some could make the argument for the Rose Kennedy Greenway, which Ted Kennedy helped usher into reality out of the mire of the Big Dig project, or the family compound in Hyannis Port — or, perhaps, simply anywhere in Massachusetts would do, since his impact over the years was so broad.

My mom was torn on whether she would have rather been there to see Kennedy lying in state, or if it was better to come when we did and not see the casket. In the end, I just think it’s glad we did something at all — and that we did it together. My politics are rooted in the values she brought me up with, and going to the JFK Museum with her the day after the death of a Massachusetts liberal icon was simply the most perfect thing we could have hoped to do. The arrangements were serendipitous, but quite fitting.

On our way out of the museum, we ran into a woman who asked if the line was very long. We told her no, there weren’t a ton of people there yet, but the crowds were growing. She was stopping by on the way to Rhode Island to visit her own sick father. Kennedy’s death had obviously touched her.

“You can’t replace him,” she said, “but it tells us we have to step up and try harder.”

In the vein of what I wrote in the remembrance book, I couldn’t help but agree.

Postscript: Friday night, I had a dream. I often don’t remember the full context of my dreams, only (if I’m lucky) scenes and snippets. So the snippet I remember from Friday night’s dream is walking at night with Ted Kennedy, from Faneuil Hall to the North End. We were walking side by side in quiet. The streets were rain-slicked and the air was cool. He wore a dark coat and hat. A sense of finality permeated the scene.

And that was it.

(My photos from our visit are on Flickr.}


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