I was reading a blog the other day (wish I could reference it but that is the whirlwind nature of my blog reading these days so I humbly apologize for not giving proper credit) and the woman talked about how annoying it was at work when her co-workers would say something like "that is not very Zen of you" or "Why would a Buddhist do that?" We have hundreds of labels like Buddhist or Republican and we can sink underneath the weight of them.
Senator Kennedy carried the burdens of his labels within the public arena. His family was the closest Americans had to royalty and much was expected of them all. He failed early and often but many of us did while we were trying to figure out who to be. I can't imagine, as a family therapist, the dynamics in play in that powerful family...I'm not sure they were to his advantage. And yet, he stepped up as the father figure and patriarch when he was the one left. His legacy is so complicated that even his parish priest had a difficult time capturing all his dimensions when he spoke of Kennedy at the funeral. I think, simply, his legacy is that he didn't quit. He did not succumb to the tragedies that swirled around him, some of his own making.
As a feminist (one of my labels) I struggle with where to place Chappaquiddick. I place it under the realm of addictions which runs throughout the Kennedy family. In my own middle age, I don't think one act, even an atrocious one, defines a person. A lifetime defines us. We get to choose which labels fit, and which labels we have to cast off to survive.
Senator Kennedy was a spiritual man, a family man, and a man who loved nature. I think those things offer redemption to him, and to us all. I hope his soul moves onward with peace.