Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…
“Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record. I know how bad I’ve been; my sins are staring me down…God, make a fresh start in me…don’t throw me out with the trash…put a fresh wind in my sails.” Psalm 51: 1-2, 10-12 (The Message)
As the morning unfolds the memories of that moment of a quarter-century ago flood my thoughts.
I had arrived early for the burial ceremony. The early arrival gave me a chance to walk between row-after-row of white crosses stretched out as far as one could see across those hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.
It also caused my hands and face to become numb in the twenty-degree temperatures that February morning as I waited for the horse-drawn caisson and drum and bugle corps to begin their march to the gravesite. It is an impressive place and ceremony with a twenty-one gun salute concluding the words of committal.
It was to be the final resting place for the body of a man who not only served our Country but lifted my life many years ago. As retired military he was entitled to be buried at Arlington. But he is also our son’s namesake and for many reasons, including the lessons I learned listening by his knee and by following his example, Colonel Clarke Sullivan deserved to have that place among other heroes laid to rest in that historic place.
And as I reflect on those memories this morning, I can’t help but think about how the morning is opening on the lives of the family of Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
With the State of Massachusetts and much of our Nation looking on, the family of Senator Ted Kennedy spent much of this past weekend in activities surrounding his memorial services. Those services concluded as night fell at Arlington National Cemetery with the committal at the gravesite which will now be shared with his brothers John and Robert. With two years of active duty in the United States Army and forty-six years of service in the United States Senate, he was entitled to a burial place on the grounds of our National Cemetery.
Although felled rather quickly by an aggressive and malignant brain tumor, his life didn’t end with the tragic abruptness of assassination which snuffed out the lives of his brothers, John F. and Robert F. Kennedy. Though living longer than his brothers, his life was memorable for many reasons.
A commentator, who disagreed with almost every political position the Senator took, praised him for the passion he displayed in always standing for what he believed. Perhaps as a Nation we are beginning to shake ourselves out of moments of complacency and beginning to follow that course of standing up for what we believe for our own lives and future.
Known as the “liberal lion” it is said that he was the voice for the voiceless through the years. Unable to secure the nomination of his party for President, he continued in that voice with these words:
“For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”
Nephews and nieces recall how their uncle would always be in attendance at special events in their life. Later in his life, apparently with the encouragement of his new wife, he seemed to reorder his priorities and make amends for things he had done and positions which he felt he should change. Perhaps in that is a lesson to be learned, that at any point in life, a period of introspection and change is appropriate for all of us.
Yet like David in Psalm 51, above, Senator Kennedy’s life was marked by decisions which seemed to forever color the steps and frustrate the plans for the course of his future. Whether fair or not, it seemed though that the journey of Ted Kennedy’s life could never get past the consequences of the decisions he made around the events of that one fateful night and tragic car accident of July 19, 1969 and the days which followed.
David’s decision—to have an adulterous affair with Bathsheba and then to secure the death of her husband Uriah by ordering him to the front lines of battle—harm lives. But decisions like that also tend to impair the credibility, integrity, potential direction and ultimate impact for good of our lives.
Thank God though for forgiveness and mercy. For every one of us. David pleaded for God to give grace, to wipe out his bad record, to not throw him out with the trash, to make a fresh start in him and to put a fresh wind in his sails—and He did. And David went on from that moment, and as King did many great things.
But decisions have consequences, and the consequences and mark of David’s wrongdoings—even though forgiven by God—never left him in the eyes of those around him. It is a lesson repeated in the lives of many throughout history since David, and a lesson we may all be well advised to learn.
Just something for us to think about today and everyday…for the rest of our lives.
In His Name—Scott