President Barack Obama was among the government leaders and luminaries who spoke of the senator at his funeral mass. Kennedy was depicted as the man who made an indelible impact on U.S. life over his 47 years in Congress-- and the man who preserved the spirit and good name of America's most famous family during its moments of tragedy and triumph.
The Roman Catholic funeral took place at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica, a church Kennedy had frequented almost daily while his daughter, Kara, battled cancer at a nearby hospital. Throngs of well-wishers lined Boston's rain-soaked streets to say goodbye.
The service drew three of the four living former presidents, dozens of Kennedy relatives, current and former members of Congress and many others whose lives have been touched by the senator. Seven priests, 11 pallbearers and 29 honorary pallbearers took part. Mournful performances came from tenor Placido Domingo and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Other guests included Boston Celtics great Bill Russell, actor Jack Nicholson and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, once an aide to Kennedy.
Obama capped the ceremony with a simple but moving eulogy which incorporated humor, his own experiences and timeless anecdotes to memorialize the senator. Obama playfully noted that while the country may have perceived Kennedy as "the heir of a weighty legacy," he was known by his younger family members as, simply, "The Grand Fromage."
"Ted Kennedy's life's work was not to champion those with wealth or power or special connections," Obama said. "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."
The president added, "though it is Ted Kennedy's historic body of achievements we will remember, it is his giving heart that we will miss." His speech chronicled Kennedy's contributions to the country since being elected in 1962, as well as his resilience through terrible personal trials. "He narrowly survived a plane crash, watched two children struggle with cancer, buried three nephews, and experienced personal failings and setbacks in the most public way possible," Obama stated. "It's a string of events that would have broken a lesser man ... But that was not Ted Kennedy."
Kara Kennedy was the first family member to speak at the service, reading Psalm 72. Ten of Kennedy's grandchildren, nieces and nephews offered a set of brief prayers.
Ted Kennedy Jr., the eldest son, told a story from shortly after he lost a leg to cancer at age 12, when his father helped him up a snow-covered hill with an arm around his waist and words of encouragement. "There's nothing you can't do," he said his father told him. Choking back tears, Kennedy Jr. said: "My father taught me that even our most profound losses are survivable."
After the Boston funeral, Kennedy's body was to be flown to Andrews Air Force Base, which also received JFK's body after his 1963 assassination. There was to be a prayer service at the base, and another at the U.S. Capitol for Senate staffers.
As evening was falling, Kennedy was to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on a hillside near his brothers.