Friday, September 4, 2009

Lessons from a "Lion"

Posted by Leona Bergstrom

I’ve been captivated by the ceremonies and commentaries honoring the life of Senator Edward Kennedy. Dead at the age of 77, his name is recognized by most Americans – especially by people of my generation. His story, while so distant and unconnected from my own, is strangely interwoven with mine.

With coffee in hand I sat and watched for over two hours as Senator Kennedy was eulogized and remembered in the sacred liturgy of Catholic Mass. The reality of death was not lost, but the assurance of hope was ever present. I watched family and states persons honor a man who had given his life to public service while nurturing one of the most public and intriguing families ever to walk American soil.

I am moved to consider the lessons this “Lion” -- this Irish, Catholic, elder statesman, and Democrat Senator from the complete opposite end of the country -- had to teach me -- a Swedish, Baptist, West Coast, Boomer woman.

A few lessons from this Lion:
1. Senator Kennedy at age 77, did not just watch the news, he made it. Until recent months he was actively involved in the high demands of serving as a United States Senator. He was still fighting for justice and liberty for all. He didn’t lie in repose until he was dead. He was a model for what it means to stay engaged, stay involved, and to live out one’s passions – even into what could be one’s “retirement” years. This is a lesson many Boomers and Beyond in churches and communities across the nation need to learn.

2. He invested in the next generations. The number of younger people that he nurtured in public service are probably too great to count. Even President Obama, in his eulogy to the Senator, told stories of how he, as a young public servant was encouraged to pursue his dreams and his convictions. The President told of countless notes, calls and messages of encouragement Senator Kennedy bestowed on the next generations. Kennedy’s own family attested to the power of his legacy in their lives. I can’t help but ask again what can I, and others in my generation, learn about investing our lives in the next generations and leaving not just legacies of power, but bequeathing living legacies of faith?

3. He was committed to social justice. Maybe I don’t agree with all that the Senator promoted, but one cannot help but be awakened again to recognize the needs of the poor, the oppressed and the “least of these.” The scriptures read at his memorial are ones that I want to dominate my life – to love justice, feed the hungry, and care for the poor.

4. And lastly, I was moved by the stories of his love and devotion to family. I, like many others, oftentimes associated Ted Kennedy with his failings and scandals. But it was clear that family meant everything to him and he to them. The officiating archbishop made mention that it was his family that assured that the last days of life were sacred, significant and dignified. In a world that would like to devalue life by denying death, we would do well to honor the last days of the journey with such reverence.
Senator Ted Kennedy was a big man who filled a public spotlight. His life and death is a lesson to me to look around and find the heroes of the faith who are making news, investing in the next generations, caring for those in need, and nurturing families to walk in the way of the Lord. The lesson to be learned is that each and every life is significant and can make a difference.
(Photo by Muffet, shared via Flickr)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of David, in a way. Lived life on a large public stage, had is failings, but his legacy far overshadows his shortcomings.

He was human, but we were privileged to have his service.