26 August 2009

Ted Kennedy - At The End: Courage & Fortitude

Death is inevitable despite our best efforts at denial and delay. The piper must be paid if one expects to dance. That is the way of life...death comes.

Today we mourn the death of Ted Kennedy and that is appropriate. I sometimes think that we mourn so that we might be mourned ourselves when that time comes. Others, I suspect, would like it to bigger than that, with more meaning and implication. But me? I think not. We live and we die, both require courage and fortitude to do each well.

We'll read and hear him referred to as a "Lion". But, as one who is addicted to the Discovery and National Geographic channels, I can tell you that despite their awesome size and appearance lions, especially males, are unsavory, dandified lay-abouts. For me, Ted Kennedy was a tiger.

Tigers, you should know, are more formidable than lions and much more canny and wise than lions. They are certainly more ferocious than lions.

Some time ago, I watched a special about a tiger who ruled his area in a forest in India. He was a brave beast who kept in line the other tigers of his region. Tigers are more solitary than lions, yet this huge fellow managed to sire many offspring. And, he never lost a fight. He was an incredibly beautiful specimen of "tigerness".

In the wild, a male tiger's life expectancy is a mere 15 years. When this tiger was about fifteen and a few months he fought and lost his last battle. He was injured and his beautiful coat was torn and he was blinded in one eye. Certainly tiger's survive with worse injuries and come back to fight other battles. Yet, this one chose to do that which tigers in the wild so often do if left with a choice at the end--he went to his lair in the cliffs and curled up in the darkness and died. If he could not be that which he had been he chose not to continue.

That, to me, was meeting death with courage and fortitude. I hope that I can meet my own demise in such a way.

That is why I think of Ted Kennedy as a tiger rather than a lion. For at the end, wounded and losing to a dreadfully debilitating disease, he went home and waited for death with courage and fortitude. Just days ago, he summoned the strength to issue one last roar in a letter to Massachusetts's Republican governor, Mitt Romney, telling him that he should appoint a democrat, not a republican, to replace him as interim senator. And then he died.

Like that tiger in India, Kennedy is gone from this earth, but we still inhale and exhale the same air that he breathed and like the offspring of that tiger, there are those of us who will step forward into the vacancy and carry on the fight. Each, in his own way, remain even if as memories of greatness.

But, as to Kennedy, like that tiger of India, there will never be another like him.

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