Thursday's front-page New York Times tribute to the last days of Sen. Ted Kennedy was penned by the paper's political profiler Mark Leibovich. Leibovich reliably showers love on liberal Democrats, as shown in his profiles of "happy warrior" Sen. Chris Dodd and "compelling pop-culture icon" Al Gore, but doesn't care much for Republicans like the "cantankerous" Rep. James Sensenbrenner or Sen. Jim Bunning ("a bit of a screwball"). So it's no surprise that "After a Grim Diagnosis, Determined to Make a 'Good Ending,' " goes beyond respect for the dead in its fulsome tribute to Kennedy's final years.
The once-indefatigable Ted Kennedy was in a wheelchair at the end, struggling to speak and sapped of his energy. But from the time his brain cancer was diagnosed 15 months ago, he spoke of having a "good ending for myself," in whatever time he had left, and by every account, he did.
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.....Befitting the epic life he led, Mr. Kennedy was the protagonist of a storybook finale from the time of his diagnosis in May 2008. It was infused with a beat-the-clock element: his illness coincided with the debate over health care ("the cause of my life") and the election of a young president he championed. Mr. Kennedy raced to complete his legislative work and his memoirs ("I've got to get this right for history," he kept saying), leaned heavily on his faith, enjoyed (or endured) a procession of tributes and testimonials and just recently petitioned Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts to push for a speedy succession so his Senate seat would not be vacant long.
Leibovich didn't mention Kennedy's partisan double-dealing on the issue of Senate vacancies. Back in 2004, Kennedy took the exact opposite stance, prodding the Massachusetts state legislature to change the state law governing vacancies to thwart the possibility the state's then-governor, Republican Mitt Romney, would replace Sen. John Kerry with a Republican if Kerry had defeated Bush in the presidential election. Leibovich also devoted three paragraphs to Kennedy's faith, yet failed to mention Kennedy's fierce support of abortion on demand, in violation of the teachings of the church.
In recent years, friends say, Mr. Kennedy had come to lean heavily on his Roman Catholic faith. In eulogizing his mother, Rose Kennedy, in 1995, he spoke of the comfort of religious beliefs. "She sustained us in the saddest times by her faith in God, which was the greatest gift she gave us," Mr. Kennedy said, his voice stammering. He attended Mass every day in the year after his mother's death and continued to attend regularly, often a few times a week.The Rev. Mark Hession, the priest at the Kennedys' parish on the Cape, made regular visits to the Kennedy home this summer and held a private family Mass in the living room every Sunday. Even in his final days, Mr. Kennedy led the family in prayer after the death of his sister Eunice on Aug. 11. He died comfortably and in no apparent pain, friends and staff members said.