Open letter to Victoria Kennedy

August 30, 2009 by barbara

barbara writes

Dear Vicki,

You do not know me. Our paths are unlikely to intersect any time soon, if ever. And truthfully, I haven't paid much attention to you over the years, living as you have in the humongous shadow of the Kennedys in general and Ted Kennedy in particular.

I’ve seen this photo of you several times over the past day or two. Whoever took it captured one of the most intimate, up-close looks at grief I can remember seeing, ever. And there’ve been a boatload of them in my longish lifetime. Predictably, Jacqueline Kennedy’s face comes to mind, followed by a panoply of others.

And who the heck am I, you ask? Please read on.

Well, I am a sometimes blogger, a self-acknowledged lightweight in the world of political analysis and punditry. I am, however, a heavyweight in the world of grief. Not to be confused with expert. No. Just one vessel among many, filled to capacity with the vestiges of loss. To cancer.

You are blessed beyond measure with incredible support from Teddy’s large and loving family. Even Kennedy critics must snipe in secret awe of the family’s deep and abiding love for all its saints and sinners. Remarkable, really. Unconditional love, writ large, larger, largest. Precious beyond measure.

But you know all of this, or soon will when you’ve had some time to breathe and settle.

My David was as under the radar as Teddy was on it. A quiet, shy, reflective man. He hungered for knowledge and fed the hunger every day. He was acutely aware of his flaws and was, in fact, harder on himself than he ever should have been. He worked assiduously to be, to become, a good man. He longed to be understood. Not many people knew that about him. He was intensely private. And because he was never the least bit self-promoting, because he was soft-spoken and perpetually polite, he was rarely noticed or heard.

Yes, the contrast between your Ted and my David was, is, extreme.

So why do I tell you this? I’m not sure. I guess it serves to underscore the fact that you and I, Ted and David are polar opposites, socially, economically, geographically. Even so, my glimpse over these days at your grief has struck a deep chord. Your eyes, your face speak volumes.

And so it is that I am taking the liberty of telling you that someone in the hustings (likely many someones, actually) are not so much caught up in the aftermath of the death of our sometimes super-hero as in the very personal struggle you now face, in public and when you are alone.

There are reasons large and small, personal and public, for grieving Ted Kennedy. I am sorry for your loss.

Kindest regards,

Posted in


lilalia (not verified) | August 30, 2009 - 11:59pm

In the rush to do proper tribute, it is understandable that the wife's grief and loss be ignored. That is why you letter is so touching. I hope she gets to read it.


Marilyn (not verified) | August 31, 2009 - 5:09pm

So true, Barb, Victoria Kennedy's facial expression tells it all. I'm sure your expressions/ feelings were felt much the same way. Your
loss of David is no less significant than that of Victoria's loss of her husband, Ted Kennedy. My heart aches for both of you. Your description of David's character/personality sounds much like my dad who I lost many years ago. In fact, I always remember dad as a gentlman and a gentle man. Had I personally known David I'm sure I would have said the same.


BLOGDE (not verified) | August 31, 2009 - 5:48pm

Great photo and a beautiful letter.


barbara says (not verified) | August 31, 2009 - 8:44pm

lilalia, marilyn, BLOGDE, thanks for checking in. And thanks for understanding where I'm coming from with this. Your kind words mean a lot.


susan | September 3, 2009 - 4:26pm

Amen to the above. To the photo, to the post and your shared grief. I hope somehow she sees it.
Years ago, when Mark Dayton was running for something, I got a phone call from Ted Kennedy. Really. We thought it was a joke too. My husband, Jim, answered the phone and heard something like, "Hello, this is Ted Kennedy for Susan." And Jim said something back like, "And I'm Abraham Lincoln . . . " Then there was a pause, Jim's face went serious and then he said, "Yes, yes, of course, she's right here Senator." I still thought he, or someone, was joking with me, but I picked up the phone and there was that unmistakable voice and accent. And he was, ah, hoping that I'd, ah, join him and Vicki at Mark Dayton's the following week, and I was saying, Yes, yes, I'll be there, thank you so much for inviting me Senator . . .
Now it's true that during Bill Clinton's first (and second) campaign I'd stroked some big checks, which apparently put me on the short list, the DO call list for people like Teddy. But I also think Ted was the sort of guy who did this for everyone -- got on the phone, made the calls. I mean, I know he did, they said so at his funeral.

So I robbed the piggy bank and went to the fundraiser and got to press the flesh with Vicki and then stand around and watch her for awhile and she seemed very natural and good humored and into politics in a good way, not just the bored wife on the side Laura Bush way. She and Ted exchanged a lot of looks, those nice across the room looks which seem to say "yeah, I was thinking the same thing." or "let's get out of here."
Vicki impressed me and I remember all of us saying, "Oh, that's why Ted's turned things around." It was obvious that she's got substance, and that they really really dug each other. There was a lot of laughter between them. It made me happy.
So I'm saying, Vicki for Senator. Massachusetts needs a Sen. Kennedy, and we all need a strong voice for -- everything, but health care for starters.


Kathy (not verified) | September 16, 2009 - 8:00pm

As always, your thoughts & feelings have converged into eloquent, heartfelt words. It is good for all of us to remember that no matter who you are - famous person, nice guy, homeless person, or relative -death and grief touch all and it is the living who are left to sort it all out. Thank you for you courage to write & to share.