'A difference in this nation's life'

As a soft twilight fell over the nation's capital, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was laid to his final rest Saturday in a ceremony on a sloping site in Arlington National Cemetery.

Kennedy's burial brings America's most famous band of brothers together again. His grave sits 100 feet south of his brother Robert's, and 200 feet from the eternal flame that burns for John, the former president.

The senator's funeral cortege followed the same route his brothers' hearses did, from the Capitol to the national shrine across the Potomac River in Virginia, after they were killed more than four decades ago.

Eight members of a U.S. military honor guard carried Kennedy's casket from the black hearse and set it down at a freshly dug grave near manicured shrubs and broad maple trees.

A large U.S. flag was spread over the casket during the final rite of committal and prayer by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a family friend and former archbishop of Washington. The ceremony ended three days of tributes and memorials in Kennedy's honor.

"His roar and his zeal for what he believed made a difference in this nation's life," McCarrick told Kennedy's widow, Victoria, and 14 other family members, who sat beside the grave on a raised platform flanked by white hydrangeas and roses.

At the end, Kennedy's four grandchildren -- Kiley Kennedy, Edward M. Kennedy III, and Max and Grace Allen -- approached the grave.

"I can't say anything," said Kiley, 15, as she sobbed. But she continued: "You see, my grandpa was really a kid. He knew how to joke, laugh and have fun. If you ever saw him conducting the Boston Pops, that's what he was like all the time with me."

Kennedy's grave will bear a white oak cross at the head, and a white marble marker at the foot, identical to the one that marks Robert's plot. No other crosses are like it at Arlington, which has more than 300,000 headstones, according to John Metzler Jr., the cemetery's superintendent.

Earlier Saturday, Kennedy was mourned in a funeral Mass in Boston, in his home state. The passing of the Kennedy clan's patriarch brought together four U.S. presidents, more than half of the Senate, plus Hollywood stars, sports legends and foreign dignitaries.

A sense of history and loss pervaded the cold, rainy morning. The Mass bore all of the trappings of a funeral for a beloved head of state.

"We do not weep for him today because of the prestige attached to his name or his office," President Obama said in a eulogy to the more than 1,400 mourners.

"We weep because we loved this kind and tender hero who persevered through pain and tragedy -- not for the sake of ambition or vanity, not for wealth or power, but only for the people and the country that he loved."

Obama praised Kennedy as "a champion for those who had none, the soul of the Democratic Party, and the lion of the United States Senate -- a man who graces nearly 1,000 laws, and who penned more than 300 laws himself."

Kennedy, he said, "became the greatest legislator of our time."

Kennedy himself had chosen the imposing Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help for his funeral. He had prayed at the Roman Catholic church daily while his daughter, Kara, was being treated nearby for lung cancer. The ornate spires tower over a working-class community in Boston's Roxbury area.

As the morning began, a military honor guard unloaded from a black hearse the flag-draped coffin, covered in clear plastic from the rain, and carried it in a strict cadence up the stone steps.

Once inside, they folded the flag, one that had flown over the U.S. Senate, where the liberal Democrat had served for 47 years before he died of brain cancer Tuesday at age 77. A white pall was placed over the coffin.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, archbishop of Boston, praised Kennedy as a man who had lived a "life of faith and prayer" and "compassion and service."

Ten of Kennedy's grandchildren, nephews and nieces took turns reading his words in a call and response with the mourners.

"The work of compassion must continue," granddaughter Kiley said. Grandson Max recited the senator's call for "a new sense of hope."

Later, Kennedy's son Edward Jr., an investment banker, fought back tears as he spoke of how he had lost his leg to cancer at age 12, but found his father constantly urging him upward and forward.

"He taught me that nothing was impossible," he said.

"He was not perfect," the younger Kennedy added. "Far from it. But my father believed in redemption. And he never surrendered -- never stopped trying to right wrongs."

During the liturgy of the Eucharist, cellist Yo-Yo Ma played the woeful sarabande from Bach's Suite No. 6. When family and friends filed forward to receive Communion, Ma played again as opera tenor Placido Domingo sang Cesar Franck's Panis Angelicus. Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham followed with Schubert's Ave Maria.

Former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and their wives sat near the front of the church. Aides to former President George H.W. Bush, 85, said that he was too frail to make the journey.

Vice President Joe Biden and three of his predecessors -- Al Gore, Dan Quayle and Walter F. Mondale -- also attended. Among the honorary pallbearers was Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, a former Kennedy aide.

Dozens of current and former members of the Senate and House of Representatives packed the wooden pews. Also attending were actors Jack Nicholson and Lauren Bacall, singer Tony Bennett and Boston Celtics basketball legend Bill Russell.

After the service, the honor guard unfolded the flag and replaced it on the casket as organ music swelled and bells tolled. The casket was reloaded into the hearse, and family members accompanied it on a flight to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington.

Several hundred current and former Senate staffers and other well-wishers, including several members of Congress, greeted Kennedy's cortege with applause when it stopped by the steps of the Capitol.

Victoria Reggie Kennedy embraced many of those on the lower steps, including Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), 91. He bid farewell to his longtime friend from a wheelchair in a prime spot at the base of the steps.

Thousands of spectators watched from the Senate lawn, where Kennedy had given many not-so-impromptu news conferences over the years.

Before the motorcade left for Arlington, Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.), another son of the late senator, spoke to the many Kennedy staffers who had come to say goodbye.

His father, he said, "knew he was only great because he had great people supporting him."

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bob.drogin@latimes.com

joliphant@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

SELECTED EXCERPTS FROM PRESIDENT OBAMA'S EULOGY

'Alive to the plight and the suffering of others'

Your Eminence, Vicki, Kara, Edward, Patrick, Curran, Caroline, members of the Kennedy family, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Today we say goodbye to the youngest child of Rose and Joseph Kennedy. The world will long remember their son Edward as the heir to a weighty legacy, a champion for those who had none, the soul of the Democratic Party, and the lion of the United States Senate -- a man who graces nearly 1,000 laws, and who penned more than 300 laws himself.

But those of us who loved him, and ache with his passing, know Ted Kennedy by the other titles he held: Father. Brother. Husband. Grandfather. Uncle Teddy, or as he was often known to his younger nieces and nephews, "the Grand Fromage," or "the Big Cheese." I, like so many others in the city where he worked for nearly half a century, knew him as a colleague, a mentor, and above all, as a friend.

::

Through his own suffering, Ted Kennedy became more alive to the plight and the suffering of others -- the sick child who could not see a doctor; the young soldier denied her rights because of what she looks like or who she loves or where she comes from. The landmark laws that he championed -- the Civil Rights Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, immigration reform, children's health insurance, the Family and Medical Leave Act -- all have a running thread. Ted Kennedy's life work was not to champion the causes of those with wealth or power or special connections. It was to give a voice to those who were not heard, to add a rung to the ladder of opportunity, to make real the dream of our founding. He was given the gift of time that his brothers were not, and he used that gift to touch as many lives and right as many wrongs as the years would allow.

We can still hear his voice bellowing through the Senate chamber, face reddened, fist pounding the podium, a veritable force of nature, in support of healthcare or workers' rights or civil rights. And yet, as has been noted, while his causes became deeply personal, his disagreements never did. While he was seen by his fiercest critics as a partisan lightning rod, that's not the prism through which Ted Kennedy saw the world, nor was it the prism through which his colleagues saw Ted Kennedy. He was a product of an age when the joy and nobility of politics prevented differences of party and platform and philosophy from becoming barriers to cooperation and mutual respect -- a time when adversaries still saw each other as patriots.

And that's how Ted Kennedy became the greatest legislator of our time. He did it by hewing to principle, yes, but also by seeking compromise and common cause -- not through deal-making and horse-trading alone, but through friendship, and kindness, and humor. There was the time he courted Orrin Hatch for support of the Children's Health Insurance Program by having his chief of staff serenade the senator with a song Orrin had written himself; the time he delivered shamrock cookies on a china plate to sweeten up a crusty Republican colleague; the famous story of how he won the support of a Texas committee chairman on an immigration bill: Teddy walked into a meeting with a plain Manila envelope, and showed only the chairman that it was filled with the Texan's favorite cigars. When the negotiations were going well, he would inch the envelope closer to the chairman. When they weren't, he'd pull it back. Before long, the deal was done.

It was only a few years ago, on St. Patrick's Day, when Teddy buttonholed me on the floor of the Senate for my support of a certain piece of legislation that was coming up for vote. I gave my pledge, but I expressed skepticism that it would pass. But when the roll call was over, the bill garnered the votes that it needed, and then some. I looked at Teddy with astonishment and asked how he had done it. He just patted me on the back and said, "Luck of the Irish!"

Of course, luck had little to do with Ted Kennedy's legislative success; he knew that. A few years ago, his father-in-law told him that he and Daniel Webster just might be the two greatest senators of all time. Without missing a beat, Teddy replied, "What did Webster do?"

But though it is Teddy's historic body of achievements that we will remember, it is his giving heart that we will miss. It was the friend and the colleague who was always the first to pick up the phone and say, "I'm sorry for your loss," or "I hope you feel better," or "What can I do to help?" It was the boss so adored by his staff that over 500, spanning five decades, showed up for his 75th birthday party. It was the man who sent birthday wishes and thank-you notes and even his own paintings to so many who never imagined that a U.S. senator of such stature would take the time to think about somebody like them. I have one of those paintings in my private study off the Oval Office -- a Cape Cod seascape that was a gift to a freshman legislator who had just arrived in Washington and happened to admire it when Ted Kennedy welcomed him into his office. That, by the way, is my second gift from Teddy and Vicki after our dog, Bo. And it seems like everyone has one of those stories -- the ones that often start with, "You wouldn't believe who called me today."

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Ted Kennedy has gone home now, guided by his faith and by the light of those that he has loved and lost. At last he is with them once more, leaving those of us who grieve his passing with the memories he gave, the good that 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 whatever storms may come, carrying on toward some new and wondrous place just beyond the horizon. May God bless Ted Kennedy, and may he rest in eternal peace.

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