Ice cream and Bond: Teddy's final days
Friday 28 August 2009
Teddy Kennedy was fortunate and told everyone so in the last weeks and months of his life. Unlike his three brothers, Joe, Jack and Bobby, he knew what was coming and, roughly, when the curtain would fall. He had time to enjoy a few things first.
Like ice cream, not plain vanilla but mocha chip and butter crunch, preferably mixed together. Weight gain was hardly a concern.
Like home and sea air. Like James Bond movies and episodes of 24. Best of all, like family and good friends. When the brain cancer diagnosis came in May 2008, doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston thought he had weeks left to live, at best a few months. So Teddy did well. It was a full 12 months before he finally trod the corridors of the Capitol in Washington for the last time to retreat to Hyannis Port and the love of Vicki, his wife. The first public clue that the end was approaching came this month when he failed to attend the funeral of his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
In recent weeks, he was in a wheelchair, no longer able to walk, but still he fought. The patient made it out of bed every day except for Tuesday, the day he died. Vicki saw to it that the swirl of friends and family never abated, in late July launching a string of dinner parties in his honour. Some nights, Teddy would sing duets at the table, "You Are My Sunshine", for instance, and "Just A Closer Walk With Thee".
Among regular visitors to the house was his last remaining sibling, Jean Kennedy Smith, who rented a cottage down the road, and also the family's priest. Until the end, Mr Kennedy relied heavily for comfort on his Catholic faith.
"This is someone who had a fierce determination to live, but who was not afraid to die," Bill Delahunt, a Democrat Congressman elected from the Hyannis district, told The New York Times. "And he was not afraid to have a lot of laughs until he got there."
Once there, Mr Delahunt said, Mr Kennedy was looking forward to being reunited with the slain brothers to tell them: "I did it; I carried the torch. I carried it all the way." As he did.
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