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Sen. Edward M. Kennedy laid to rest near brothers

After a Boston funeral Mass attended by dignitaries and stars, his extended family says goodbye to its patriarch at Arlington National Cemetery.

August 30, 2009|Bob Drogin and James Oliphant

BOSTON AND WASHINGTON — As a soft twilight fell over the nation's capital, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was laid to his final rest Saturday in a ceremony on a sloping site in Arlington National Cemetery.

Kennedy's burial brings America's most famous band of brothers together again. His grave sits 100 feet south of his brother Robert's, and 200 feet from the eternal flame that burns for John, the former president.

The senator's funeral cortege followed the same route his brothers' hearses did, from the Capitol to the national shrine across the Potomac River in Virginia, after they were killed more than four decades ago.

Eight members of a U.S. military honor guard carried Kennedy's casket from the black hearse and set it down at a freshly dug grave near manicured shrubs and broad maple trees.

A large U.S. flag was spread over the casket during the final rite of committal and prayer by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a family friend and former archbishop of Washington. The ceremony ended three days of tributes and memorials in Kennedy's honor.

"His roar and his zeal for what he believed made a difference in this nation's life," McCarrick told Kennedy's widow, Victoria, and 14 other family members, who sat beside the grave on a raised platform flanked by white hydrangeas and roses.

At the end, Kennedy's four grandchildren -- Kiley Kennedy, Edward M. Kennedy III, and Max and Grace Allen -- approached the grave.

"I can't say anything," said Kiley, 15, as she sobbed. But she continued: "You see, my grandpa was really a kid. He knew how to joke, laugh and have fun. If you ever saw him conducting the Boston Pops, that's what he was like all the time with me."

Kennedy's grave will bear a white oak cross at the head, and a white marble marker at the foot, identical to the one that marks Robert's plot. No other crosses are like it at Arlington, which has more than 300,000 headstones, according to John Metzler Jr., the cemetery's superintendent.

Earlier Saturday, Kennedy was mourned in a funeral Mass in Boston, in his home state. The passing of the Kennedy clan's patriarch brought together four U.S. presidents, more than half of the Senate, plus Hollywood stars, sports legends and foreign dignitaries.

A sense of history and loss pervaded the cold, rainy morning. The Mass bore all of the trappings of a funeral for a beloved head of state.

"We do not weep for him today because of the prestige attached to his name or his office," President Obama said in a eulogy to the more than 1,400 mourners.

"We weep because we loved this kind and tender hero who persevered through pain and tragedy -- not for the sake of ambition or vanity, not for wealth or power, but only for the people and the country that he loved."

Obama praised Kennedy as "a champion for those who had none, the soul of the Democratic Party, and the lion of the United States Senate -- a man who graces nearly 1,000 laws, and who penned more than 300 laws himself."

Kennedy, he said, "became the greatest legislator of our time."

Kennedy himself had chosen the imposing Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help for his funeral. He had prayed at the Roman Catholic church daily while his daughter, Kara, was being treated nearby for lung cancer. The ornate spires tower over a working-class community in Boston's Roxbury area.

As the morning began, a military honor guard unloaded from a black hearse the flag-draped coffin, covered in clear plastic from the rain, and carried it in a strict cadence up the stone steps.

Once inside, they folded the flag, one that had flown over the U.S. Senate, where the liberal Democrat had served for 47 years before he died of brain cancer Tuesday at age 77. A white pall was placed over the coffin.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, archbishop of Boston, praised Kennedy as a man who had lived a "life of faith and prayer" and "compassion and service."

Ten of Kennedy's grandchildren, nephews and nieces took turns reading his words in a call and response with the mourners.

"The work of compassion must continue," granddaughter Kiley said. Grandson Max recited the senator's call for "a new sense of hope."

Later, Kennedy's son Edward Jr., an investment banker, fought back tears as he spoke of how he had lost his leg to cancer at age 12, but found his father constantly urging him upward and forward.

"He taught me that nothing was impossible," he said.

"He was not perfect," the younger Kennedy added. "Far from it. But my father believed in redemption. And he never surrendered -- never stopped trying to right wrongs."

During the liturgy of the Eucharist, cellist Yo-Yo Ma played the woeful sarabande from Bach's Suite No. 6. When family and friends filed forward to receive Communion, Ma played again as opera tenor Placido Domingo sang Cesar Franck's Panis Angelicus. Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham followed with Schubert's Ave Maria.

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