|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
As recently as a few days ago, Mr. Kennedy was still digging into big bowls of mocha chip and butter crunch ice creams, all smushed together (as he liked it). He and his wife, Vicki, had been watching every James Bond movie and episode of “24” on DVD.
He began each morning with a sacred rite of reading his newspapers, drinking coffee and scratching the bellies of his beloved Portuguese water dogs, Sunny and Splash, on the front porch of his Cape Cod house overlooking Nantucket Sound.
If he was feeling up to it, he would end his evenings with family dinner parties around the same mahogany table where he used to eat lobster with his brothers.
He took phone calls from President Obama, house calls from his priest and — just a few weeks ago — crooned after-dinner duets of “You Are My Sunshine” (with his son Patrick) and “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” (with Vicki).
“There were a lot of joyous moments at the end,” said Dr. Lawrence C. Horowitz, Mr. Kennedy’s former Senate chief of staff, who oversaw his medical care. “There was a lot of frankness, a lot of hugging, a lot of emotion.”
Obviously, Dr. Horowitz added, there were difficult times. By this spring, according to friends, it was clear that the tumor had not been contained; new treatments proved ineffective and Mr. Kennedy’s comfort became the priority.
But interviews with close friends and family members yield a portrait of a man who in his final months was at peace with the end of his life and grateful for the chance to savor the salty air and the company of loved ones.
Even as Mr. Kennedy’s physical condition worsened over the summer, he still got out of bed every day until Tuesday, when he died in the evening, said Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and one of Mr. Kennedy’s closest friends in the Senate.
“I’m still here,” Mr. Kennedy would call colleagues out of the blue to say, as if to refute suggestions to the contrary. “Every day is a gift,” was his mantra to begin conversations, said Peter Meade, a friend who met Mr. Kennedy as a 14-year-old volunteer on Mr. Kennedy’s first Senate campaign.
Some patients given a fatal diagnosis succumb to bitterness and self-pity; others try to cram in everything they have always wanted to do (sky-diving, a trip to China). Mr. Kennedy wanted to project vigor and a determination tokeep on going. He chose what he called “prudently aggressive” treatments.
While Mr. Kennedy typically told people he felt well and vigorous, by spring it was becoming clear that his disease was advancing to where he could not spend his remaining months as he had hoped, helping push a health care plan through the Senate.
He left Washington in May, after nearly a half-century in the capital, and decamped to Cape Cod, where he would contribute what he could to the health care debate via phone and C-Span. He would sail as much as possible, with as little pain and discomfort as his caretakers could manage.
He also told friends that he wanted to take stock of his life and enjoy the gift of his remaining days with the people he loved most.
“I’ve had a wonderful life,” he said repeatedly, friends recalled.
Labels: Ted Kennedy