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Nation bids farewell to Sen. Edward Kennedy

The nation said farewell on Saturday to Edward M. Kennedy, who used his privileged life to give consistent, passionate voice to the underprivileged for nearly a half-century as a U.S. senator from Massachusetts. He was the only one of four Kennedy brothers to reach late adulthood, and he was remembered for making the most of it. Along the rain-dappled roadways of Boston in the late morning, and then in the sweltering humidity of Washington in early evening, people waited for the fleeting moment of a passing hearse so that they could pay respects to the man known simply as Ted. There, at Capitol Hill, where Kennedy had served for so long, his wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, stepped out of a limousine to receive hugs, bow her head during prayers, and to hear the singing of America the Beautiful.

The day began with a funeral Mass at a Roman Catholic church in Boston where the senator had sometimes sought comfort, without entourage or advance notice. Hundreds sat gathered in his honor, including President Barack Obama; three of the four living former presidents — the first President George Bush missed the service due to health reasons — dozens of foreign dignitaries and members of Congress; and, of course, people so familiar to Americans simply because they are Kennedys.

During the part of the Mass when prayers of hope are shared, his grandchildren, nieces and nephews stepped up to express once more Ted Kennedy's political and human desires:

That human beings be measured not by what they cannot do but by what they can do. That quality health care becomes a fundamental right and not a privilege. That the old politics of race and gender die away. That newcomers be accepted, no matter their color or place of birth. That the nation stand united against violence, hate and war. And, in echo of his famous words, that the work begins anew, the hope arises anew, and the dream lives on.

"We pray to the Lord," each young petitioner concluded. And each time the body of mourners answered as one, "Lord, hear our prayer."

Services Saturday included readings from the Old and New Testaments; ethereal music, including Sarabande from Bach's Cello Suite No. 6, played by the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and Cesar Franck's Panis Angelicus, sung by the tenor Placido Domingo.

After Holy Communion, Obama delivered the eulogy for the man whose endorsement in the 2008 campaign was like the passing of a sword from Camelot, helping enormously in giving this country its first African-American president.

"Today we say goodbye to the youngest child of Rose and Joseph Kennedy," Obama said. "The world will long remember their son Edward as the heir to a weighty legacy, a champion for those who had none, the soul of the Democratic Party, and the lion of the United States Senate."

He was the thoughtful representative of the people, Obama said, keeping in touch, for example, with the Massachusetts families who lost loved ones on Sept. 11. Across the country, he said, people would say, "You wouldn't believe who called me today" — and it would be Ted Kennedy.

Kennedy was also a family man, lover of the arts, prankster, charmer, sailor. And that is the image the president left with the congregation: "Of a man on a boat, white mane tousled, smiling broadly as he sails into the wind, ready for whatever storms may come, carrying on toward some new and wondrous place just beyond the horizon."

"May God bless Ted Kennedy," Obama said. "And may he rest in eternal peace."

Saturday's farewell concluded three days of tributes and well-orchestrated ceremonies. These included a viewing of the coffin at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston — at which thousands paid their respects, whispering prayers, murmuring thanks — and a private memorial service Friday night.

After Obama delivered his eulogy, Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley commended Kennedy to his maker. Ten pallbearers, all of the next Kennedy generation, slowly wheeled the coffin down the aisle as the congregation sang America the Beautiful.

As a motorcade with the hearse began its journey to Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, the people of Massachusetts lined the streets and highways, some huddled under umbrellas. In this way, Massachusetts said farewell to its favored son.

Borne by a presidential plane to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, Kennedy's coffin was taken by motorcade to Capitol Hill, where hundreds of members and staff members of Congress gathered on the steps. When the motorcade appeared in the distance, applause and cheers rose up, then grew louder as the hearse came to a stop.

America the Beautiful was sung once more.

At 6:43, motorcycles engines began to grumble, and the motorcade began the final leg of its destination, down Constitution Avenue, past the Lincoln Memorial and on to the solemnness that awaited at Arlington National Cemetery.

There, Edward Moore Kennedy, the last of the Kennedy brothers and the only one not to die violently, was buried on a lush green hill.

The body of his oldest brother, Joseph, a World War II Navy pilot killed on a mission in 1942, was never recovered; he was 29. The body of his second-oldest brother, John, the president assassinated in 1963, lies a few dozen yards away; he was 46. Robert, the senator and presidential aspirant who was assassinated in 1968, lies even closer; he was 42.

And now Teddy, who often lived in the shadows of these brothers, joined them after a 15-month struggle with brain cancer. He was 77.

This morning, cemetery officials said, the green of the grass will be smooth again, the hole filled, the sod laid. It will feature a white wooden cross made by the cemetery's carpenter.

EDWARD MOORE KENNEDY, it will say. 1932-2009

Remembering Ted Kennedy

President Obama and Kennedy's sons movingly remember the senator. 11A

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To see a photo gallery from Kennedy's funeral, go to

Nation bids farewell to Sen. Edward Kennedy 08/29/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 29, 2009 10:56pm]
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