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  • Writer's picturegailphilip4

The Kennedy clan

Some of you may have watched the film Chappaquiddick on TV the other night, or perhaps you have seen it previously. It’s about the famous, or infamous, car accident on a tiny island, off Martha’s Vineyard Massachusetts, in 1969 when Senator Ted Kennedy’s car went over the edge of a small bridge and plunged into the water. His passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned in the submerged car, but Kennedy managed to get out. It all reflected badly on the Senator and is thought to have cost him the Democratic Party nomination in 1980.

Much has been written and speculated about this incident, and it has always intrigued me. Gail and I have twice visited the scene of the accident. It is hard for me not to believe that the Senator was seriously at fault in various ways. In my view he was very lucky to avoid a custodial prison sentence. But overall, a terrible tragedy for the Kennedy’s and Mary Jo and her parents.

We came close to a Kennedy event on another occasion. By sheer coincidence we got caught up in the traffic outside the memorial service in Greenwich, Connecticut for Carolyn and Lauren Bessette in July 1999. A few days before, John F. Kennedy Jr., son of US president John F. Kennedy, had died when the light aircraft he was flying crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Martha's Vineyard. Kennedy's wife, Carolyn Bessette, and sister-in-law, Lauren had also been on board and died.

My memory is of a sea of photographers positioning themselves on the grassy bank opposite the church, as the crowds gathered.

What a family, or dynasty, the Kennedy’s were/are! Such fantastic lives, but so much tragedy in that family! Ted Kennedy said of his nephew John after the air accident: “Like his father he had every gift but length of years.”

Can we protect ourselves from accident and sadness? To some extent we can, but there is much that is beyond our control. Even massive wealth won’t sort it. In fact, it may in some cases make it worse. That is a fact of the life God has graciously given us to live. The Kennedy family’s sadness was a nation’s sadness, just as their successes were part of the celebration. We see a principle writ large: we are all bound together in webs – families, communities, nations. And remember, pain, grief, loss were well known to Jesus, so He shares all sadness, all grief, all loss with us, and of course all joys.

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