The lines draw to the heavens today… and I am paying attention.
The Space Shuttle Discovery has ascended into orbit after long last, carrying the hopes of NASA– but also the son of migrant farm workers. Jose Hernandez picked cucumbers in Stockton as a child. Today, he is among the Latino community’s most distinguished members, circling our planet as an astronaut on his first tour in space.
And yet, at the exact same moment, our nation celebrates the life of the very senator that made Jose Hernandez’ journey possible. The Lion. Asleep now to us and for the moment surrounded by our nation’s most powerful leaders, he is bound for eternal rest with his two brothers. These Kennedy’s were my family’s patron saints. They were the source of my idealism. In their quest to pave the way for sons of farmworkers and daughters of former slaves, they changed the face of our nation. They compelled us all to live our lives in the service of others.
Senator Kennedy fought for heath care and education, social justice, and the journey of the poor. He survived the tenure of 10 presidents, beginning with his own brother’s. In over 4 decades of political battles, he wrote over 1000 laws and bills so that the civil rights of all Americans might come to full fruition. He stood for our nation’s defense. And world peace.
He fought so that there would one day be a seat on rocket ships for the likes of Jose Hernandez and the children of El Milagro. And like his brothers before him, his passions were crystallized in the Catholic tradition, as if Jesus himself approved. And he surely would.
In his passing, the media has focused intently on his life. The good and the bad. The public giant, the private man. The triumphs– and the darkest hours inevitably shared on a bright bright stage. The long march to Arlington behind the riderless pony and our fallen President. That amazing euology for Bobby that has echoed for 40 years. The one that inevitably tantalizes us to pause in deep reflection, to think– if Jack and Bobby had lived a full life… what might have been.
Images of my childhood.
My own father passed in 1986. My mother just two years ago. Today would have been her 85th birthday. She would have sat in front of the television like she had for all the Kennedy funerals, rosary in hand. Holding on to her emotions until the floodgates opened with the “Ave Maria”. Tears streaming for Irish patriots.
The symbolism and powerful metaphors would not have been lost on her. The Latino astronaut circling above. The new President delivering another eulogy for the ages. Young. Handsome. African American. Beneficiary of all those who came before to pave a road, however narrow, toward real equality—but especially Ted Kennedy.
To tell you the truth, I’ll feel better when the Discovery and our new President are safely home. There is risk in soaring. No one knows that better than this noble family. But of course, our greatness comes only from those willing to rise above the expectations and the odds, above the bigots and the small minded… above the politics and the fear.
There is less celebration here on earth today than there is in heaven. The last brother has made it home. He said of Bobby:
“My brother need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life. But to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war… and tried to stop it.”
Today, all earthly powers have one eye on the heavens and the sleeping Lion. “But the work goes on. The cause endures. The hope still lives. And the dream will never die.”