Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hats Off to the Kennedy Family

My father came to America with the shirt on his back and five bucks in his pocket, or so he'd tell you. But to me, he came with much more than that. He came with great hope and the dream of a new tomorrow. My father's childhood was lived in post-famine Ireland...a time where the few left swallowed the grief and images of the past and got on with the business of living life for the generations to follow. Trouble was, there was never enough. So my father, like many others, left Ireland, but he never forgot her.

Today, the Kennedys come together again in a very public way to grieve the loss of one of their own, Senator Ted Kennedy. As a child, my father would've told you that we, the Murphys, were a member of that tribe! At times, we thought him to be somewhat delusional, but we humored him. On our living room wall hung a portrait of Jack and Jackie, over our door, hung a golden horseshoe wrapped around a small carving of Jack Kennedy, and on our coffee table, lay a Kennedy tribute ashtray.

Were we fanatics? Well Dad was, that's for sure! But now I understand. My father never lived to see the full measure of the Kennedy legacy but luckily, I have.

Over the years, the mere mention of the Kennedy name hearkens me back to Jack Kennedy's call to service, to Bobby Kennedy's valiance and to Ted's longstanding fortitude and commitment to his family's values and to those of the many more who came to America from Ireland. They knew what hardship was and they never turned their back on it. Ted Kennedy's affiliation with the poor of spirit is something that we of Irish heritage feel at the cellular level. That is why hostility lingered for so long on its shores. But the Kennedy tribe rose up and came here, rose in their social standing and brought everyone else along with them. My tribe is connected! And although I'm a Murphy/Lynch and clearly not a Kennedy, my tribe is named hope and the actions of that tribe are the good works that we are called upon to perform in our time on earth. We are asked to never cast a shadow on those less fortunate than us. For there are always the less fortunates, my father would say. And when he said that, there was always a sad and distant look in his eye. Now I understand. For even in this land of 'milk and honey,' there are those without healthcare, without a meal on their table and whose legacy has shortchanged them in their educational opportunities.

My father came from the soil, he came as a farmer, he came with nothing. The Kennedys gave him hope for the possibility of greatness. They modeled for him and for me the actions of good work that can help the least of our brethren. Jack Murphy was the least of Ted and Bobby and Jack's brethren. They sailed yachts and enjoyed the spoils of a good life, living with servants as royalty. We sailed in our Ford automobiles and were called to service for others of greater means. But one thing is for certain...in heaven, Murphys and Kennedys alike have many a great tale to tell! And of course, there's quite a feast to be had! My thanks this day to Jack and Bobby and especially Ted who was clearly not a perfect man, but who took on the work of three men in his short time here on earth!
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