When Heroes and Heroines Die

Ted kennedy full My mother, Mildred Vandam Bornstein, died just over twelve years ago. I wrote a sadly funny piece about her funeral service. By the time she died, she and I had reconciled nearly all our big issues, and we had a deeply loving mother/tranny daughter relationship with each other. When she died, it took me a week of maddening grief to conclude there was only one way to go on living without her in my life: I had to embody the parts of her I'd relied on, and the parts of her I wanted to be. 

Never mind that my mother was an active alcoholic. Never mind that she was as depressed a mess as I am. She was a gracious lady, and a fiercely protective, loving mother. That's what I needed to embody so that her death wouldn't go on making me want to die. To heal the loss of my mother, I've endeavored to be a gracious, delightful lady whenever I possibly can. And to honor her memory, I do my best to be a fiercely protective, loving mother with my queer and freaky children all over the world. 

Now Ted Kennedy is gone, goddamn it. When I woke up this morning and heard him being eulogized on the radio, I wept like a child. I howled. I haven't cried this hard about a public figure's passing since Princess Diana died in 1997. She was another gracious, delightful lady. Through my eyes, Princes Diana was also the fierce, protective mother. I have no idea what Ted Kennedy has been to me, but I've begun looking. Never mind that he had shadows in his past. I'm looking for what it was about him that I've relied upon, what was it about him I wanted to be.

I'm not a savvy politico. I only know the most superficial accomplishments and foibles of Ted Kennedy's life. But, somehow Ted Kennedy has crept into my heart as the good guy fighting alongside the people who don't have the power to fight for on their own. That's a start. I can start working on that one.

I told all this to my girlfriend, Barbara Carrellas, over tea today. I was saying that the older you get, the more people around you die, and so the more responsible you become for whatever good they were doing in the world. She nodded. We drank some more tea. Then Barbara said she hopes that Kennedy's colleagues in Congress get the same idea about taking responsibility for taking over his good work.

Many senators, she went on to say, have surely kept their mouths shut on sensitive issues, thinking, "Oh, Ted Kennedy will handle that one." And now that he's gone? Which senators are going to take on the mantle of political good guy, powerhouse, and warhorse? 

Okay, I'm gonna go cry some more, until I figure out how I can best fight alongside some folks who don't have the power to fight on their own.

G'bye, Senator Kennedy. I'll do my best. I promise.



  1. I could hardly finish reading your post for the tears streaming down my face. It’s hard to overstate what all the Kennedy’s meant to the Irish Catholics of Boston. Teddy was the brother who, in the end, carried the flag for his dead brothers accomplishing what they could not in their short lives.
    I feel everything is lost for the underlings of this world. Now who can they turn to? My optimistic soul has no ability to lift me up. such a sad day.
    Jane Rainsford

  2. I’m in Boston and was very sad to hear of Teddy Kennedy’s passing, but my comment actually isn’t about that – it’s about your syndication feed, which is borked!
    When I access your RSS or Atom feeds from a feed reader (it’s imported to Livejournal under the username katebornstein, and I’ve tried it in Google Reader), it imports posts from http://katebornstein.typepad.com/kate_bornstein_touring_ca/ rather than here. I have no idea why, but I never remember to check your blog manually, so I keep missing your posts!

  3. I work in public policy and thought I was pretty blase when a pol passes.
    I found myself sobbing for 2 hours non-stop with Kennedy’s death. He was such a principled liberal, who fought for those of us on the “outside” of political power.
    With his passing, our loss is immeasureable.

  4. ‘I’ve endeavored to be a gracious, delightful lady whenever I possibly can.’
    Well done, Kate, for practicing what you preach by sending a me a lovely message this morning.
    ‘Kate Middleton on Human Rights’ is now on utube

  5. Thank you all for your sweet comments. And thanks to Michael, the RSS feed now works.

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