For the youngest child of nine, living up to the accomplishments of older siblings must have been daunting when the expectation of the father was for the sons to be President. Heap upon that the early, violent demise of your three older brothers, plus a deadly personal mistake, and it’s amazing Ted Kennedy didn’t just fade away. Yet, fighting through drunken demons and unattainable family expectations, “the lion of the Senate” built a life his brothers surely would have envied.

I was never a big fan of Ted Kennedy. A young man of lesser privilege would have spent more time on the floor of a Massachusetts prison than that of the Senate for his actions at Chappaquiddick, and it’s entitlement like that tearing at the fabric of America, but it seems he spent the balance of his life atoning for that deadly night.

When I tuned into coverage of his memorial, hundreds of his staffers were assembled near his office in Washington and elevated their applause upon the emergence of the Senators wife, Vicki. She seems a woman with all the grace of Jackie Kennedy, and based on the reporting, it’s Victoria Reggie Kennedy who pulled Ted Kennedy back from a life of guilty self-destruction, and into a place where love allowed life to be lived fully.

As military honor guards lowered a wooden box to the top of a symbolic resting place, darkness shrouded the glare this family has endured for a half century. When the grandchildren tearfully spoke, we only heard. When the flag was precisely folded and presented to the widow, only the flicker of one brother and the ideals of another threw light. It was private and perfect. Sometime during those moments, I heard these words sung in my head. The man lived a full life, although much of it was with fear of his brothers’ fate, and sixteen months ago fate delivered a death sentence. Now all that was left for Ted Kennedy was release.

“Oh, dear dad, can you see me now
I am myself, like you somehow
Ill wait up in the dark for you to speak to me
Ill open up…
Release me…”

Pearl Jam – “Release”
Songwriters: Krusen, Stone Gossard, Mike Ament, Mike Mccready, Eddie Vedder