He's been senator longer than I've been alive. Hell, longer than most people I know have been alive.
The news of his cancer last year made me feel mortal in a way that I hadn't before. His death has left me on the verge of tears. The man certainly had his personal demons, no one is going to to deny that and only a brain-dead fool would say otherwise. Demons that were certainly bad enough (and deadly enough in one case) to keep him from ever being president.
But as Kennedy later said: letting go of the idea of ever being president made him realize that some people were just better suited to be senators and that he was one of those people.
As senator — as the Last Lion of Congress — he has done more to help the working men and women in this nation than he ever could have managed as president. He was unapologetically liberal in his belief that the the least of us should be protected and that government could be a positive force for change. He fought for that every step of the way, from the minimum wage to the fight for health care reform and some form of national insurance in the US.
If you've ever been grateful for minimum wage because you knew your boss would pay you less if he or she could get away with it, benefited from the HIPAA, used your health insurance to pay for mental health services (Mental Health Parity Act), accessed your state CHIP to get health insurance for your children, taken advantage of COBRA after leaving a job or getting laid off, been glad that local businesses and public spaces were forced to adhere to the ADA for yourself or a family member, been low-income but able to gain access to AIDS treatment thanks to federally funded programs, or taken advantage of Title IX requirements that schools offer women a chance to play sports, you should thank Sen. Kennedy for being the moving force behind these and many, many other bills.
Although the history books will more likely remember his assassinated brothers, Jack and Bobby, at the end of the day Ted is the one who created the lasting legacy — the one that benefits and will continue to benefit the regular citizens of this nation. In the end, that's the legacy that truly counts.
So, good-bye Senator. Some people laughed at you. Some people hated you. Some people idealized you. But a whole lot of people loved you for the things you did on our behalf in the Senate, warts and all. That is why we kept electing you for 47 years, and that is why we're sorry you're gone. We shall never see your like again.
Rest in peace, Senator, and God speed.
For full coverage from The Boston Globe, go here.