I've learned more about Ted Kennedy in the past two days than I have ever known about him in my entire life. If you've seen the coverage, most major news shows have devoted the days since his death to a mini-documentary eulogy, including Camelot-infused retrospectives, interviews with prominent Washington colleagues, and video and photo montages.
Kennedy, the Massachusetts senator known as "The Lion", was extremely controversial during his life, but in his death has been portrayed as nothing but a positive force for this country, a caring friend to all who knew him, and a loving father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.
I don't know enough about Ted Kennedy or his politics to really have an opinion, but the media coverage gave me pause. Why can't we celebrate the good of others during life the way we seem to do after they have passed?
People today seem to delight in finding the dark side of others, whether they be political figures, celebrities, or your neighbor next door. In some cases, it may be warranted in order to "call out" those who may be doing wrong in order to defend the greater good. But in other cases, I think it's a testament to our own insecurities; a way to make us feel better about our own shortcomings.
I know I'm guilty of people-bashing. Who isn't? But maybe we need to defer to all those parenting books that say the best way to give your child "constructive criticism" is to preface it with a compliment. For instance, instead of saying, "Brendan, you're a horrible person to hit your brother with that bat." Say, "Brendan - you have an amazing swing! But please don't use your brother as the baseball."
OK, so that may not be a very good example. But you get the idea.
The world is a tough place, and many people are doing a myriad of things wrong. But it's also a wonderful place, with countless folks doing immeasurable good. And at the end of the day, we need to remember that we are all as human as the person next to us, and we need to recognize and celebrate the positives in others before they are gone.
I've told my friends that when I die, I don't want a funeral. Why? Because I don't want the people who never really liked me showing up just because they knew me. No, I have a better idea. If I ever have the disposable income to set aside, I'm going to start a little fund for my Irish Wake.
The traditional Irish Wake was commonplace around Ireland up until about the 1970's. There would be lots of food and drink, and people would come and socialize and remember the departed person's life. This wasn't a time for tears to say the least, it was more of a party than a funeral. It was the traditional Irish way of celebrating one's life and ensuring that they had a good send off. I'm going to have a guest list, and all those will be invited to the local bar to celebrate my life and to have a drink on me.
Of course, if there is Amy-bashing, I won't be able to do much about it. But my point is this: don't wait for a person's death to celebrate their life. We're all here NOW. We're all doing good things NOW. We all have qualities that make us shine NOW. Let's not wait until it's too late to tell each other.
Rest in peace, Senator Kennedy.