By David Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 29, 2009 8:03 PM
The burial ceremony for Edward M. Kennedy began shortly after sunset Saturday in Arlington National Cemetery, a private service that followed a eulogy by President Obama during a funeral in Boston and a cortege through downtown Washington that paused for prayers and song outside the U.S. Capitol.
An honor guard carried Kennedy's flag-draped casket to a spot between two maple trees, on a hill near the graves of his slain brothers, Robert and John. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a closefriend of the senator, presided over the brief ceremony, formally known as a Rite of Committal and Prayer of Commendation.
About fifteen members of the Kennedy family were joined at the cemetery by Vice President Joe Biden.
By Sunday, two new Kennedy markers will be in place in the historic cemetery: a glossy white oak cross at the head of Edward Kennedy's grave and a white marble foot marker, identical to those at Robert F. Kennedy's grave. The marble marker will read: "Edward Moore Kennedy 1932-2009."
Barely an hour earlier, the funeral motorcade had paused on the Senate side of the Capitol, Kennedy's political home for 46 years. On the Capitol steps stood about 1,000 past and present lawmakers and staffers, including Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), former senator Charles S. Robb and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.).
They and thousands of other people gathered nearby burst into applause when the hearse arrived. Victoria Kennedy, the senator's widow, embraced many of those on the lower steps, and then the thousands bowed in prayer and lifted their voices to sing "America the Beautiful."
Before the motorcade left for Arlington, Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.), son of the senator, addressed in particular the many Kennedy staffers. His father, he said, "knew he was only great because he had great people supporting him."
The day was filled with many such moments.
In Boston, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica, Kennedy was remembered as an iconic political figure, a man summoned by tragedy and history to extend his family's legacy and mentor succeeding Kennedy generations.
"Ted Kennedy was the baby of the family who became its patriarch," Obama said. "The restless dreamer who became its rock."
The day of farewell and celebration was carefully designed to provide space for grieving, opportunities to give thanks and moments of eloquence. It was a moving -- and movable -- tribute and leave-taking. The most important rituals took place hundreds of miles apart, in two states and the District of Columbia. Along the way, the body of the "tender hero," as Obama called him, was tenderly conveyed to some of most important sanctuaries of his life -- from the funeral in the church where he worshipped, to the Capitol where he served, to the cemetery where he regularly visited the graves of his brothers.
As in Boston, where throngs of Kennedy's admirers stood under umbrellas in a driving rain outside the basilica, people began gathering at the Capitol and along the motorcade route Saturday afternoon to secure a good place to pay their respects. From the Capitol, the hearse traveled slowly with a police escort along Constitution Avenue and crossed the Memorial Bridge to the cemetery.
"For all of my life, Ted Kennedy has been the Kennedy," said Kathy Lee, 52, a political science professor who drove to the Capitol from Wayne, Pa. "I don't want to be maudlin but it is a way of saying thanks, paying my respects. ... He was a flawed human being but there is a sense of redemption."
Obama's deeply personal eulogy at the funeral service captured the tone of the day. The president recalled Kennedy, who on Tuesday died of brain cancer at 77, as an inspirational figure in American political life who did not let partisanship spoil his humanity.
"Though it is Ted Kennedy's historic body of achievements we will remember, it is his giving heart that we will miss," Obama said.
"Ted Kennedy has gone home now, guided by his faith and by the light of those he has loved and lost," Obama concluded, alluding to Kennedy's slain brothers. "At last he is with them once more, leaving those of us who grieve his passing with the memories he gave, the good he did, the dream he kept alive, and a single, enduring image -- the image of a man on a boat; white mane tousled; smiling broadly as he sails into the wind, ready for what storms may come, carrying on toward some new and wondrous place just beyond the horizon."
Victoria Kennedy and the senator's sister, Jean Kennedy Smith, had been waiting near the church door when the casket arrived. Together they covered the polished wood with a white cloth embroidered with a cross. The casket was again draped in an American flag for the trip to Washington.
During the service, the women sat in the front row. Kennedy Smith, the last of her generation of Kennedys, was stoic. Victoria Kennedy's eyes got misty during parts of Obama's eulogy, and she stood to hug the president when he was done.
Before Obama spoke, Kennedy's two sons remembered their father as a family man, a dinner table debater and a devil's advocate, a passionate man who insisted that life be lived vigorously and fully.
"Our family vacations left us all injured and exhausted," Edward M. Kennedy Jr. said.
The younger Kennedy choked up when he recalled his own bout with cancer, as a 12-year-old boy, when his leg had to be amputated. His father urged him up an icy sledding hill, helping him when he struggled. "He taught me that nothing is impossible," he said.
The last months of his father's life "were not sad or terrifying," the son recalled. Rather, in those months, "he taught me more about humility, vulnerability and courage than he taught me my whole life."
An audience of 1,500, including former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and their wives, had assembled in the church to bid farewell to a senator who emerged from the shadows of his older brothers and became a towering figure in American life. The family chose the basilica in Mission Hill, largely a working class neighborhood of minorities and immigrants, because Kennedy frequently prayed there when his daughter, Kara, was undergoing lung cancer treatment six years ago at a nearby hospital. He prayed their again after his own brain cancer diagnosis last year.
The crowd of mourners was strikingly bipartisan, with such Republican senators as Orrin Hatch, John McCain, Judd Gregg joining Democrats Christopher Dodd, John Kerry and Harry Reid. The eclectic group also included Attorney General Eric Holder, CIA Director Leon Panetta, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Jesse Jackson, Tony Bennett and Jack Nicholson. Among the artists providing musical selections were Plácido Domingo and Yo-Yo Ma.
Earlier in the service, one by one, 10 of the youngest members of the Kennedy clan stepped to the microphone to ask God to bless the work of their grandfather and uncle. Granddaughter Kiley prayed for Kennedy's belief "that the poor may be out of political fashion but they are never out of human need."
Kym Smith prayed for her uncle's faith that "justice can only come through the work of peace," and Teddy III asked God to remember his grandfather's "brave promise" at the Democratic National Convention last year that " 'the work begins anew, the hope rises again and the dream lives on.' "
The funeral program bore a picture of Kennedy looking relaxed, healthy and smiling in a blue open-neck shirt and blue sweater. Behind him was a moored sailboat in coastal waters, and the photo was accompanied by words of the senator: "For all my years in public life, I have believed that America must sail towards the shores of liberty and justice for all. There is no end to that journey, only the next great voyage. We know the future will outlast all of us, but I believe that all of us will live on in the future that we make."
Staff writers Vince Bzdek, Keith B. Richburg and Michael D. Shear contributed to this report.