Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, laid to rest alongside his slain brothers John and Robert, was remembered as a "veritable force of nature" who worked tirelessly in the Senate for nearly five decades on the causes he cared about deeply.
Crowds lined the streets of two cities on a day that marked the end of an American political era — outside Kennedy’s funeral in rainy Boston where he was eulogized by President Barack Obama, and later in humid, late-summer Washington.
Kennedy, who died Tuesday at age 77, more than a year after he was diagnosed with brain cancer, was buried Saturday on hallowed ground at Arlington National Cemetery. At a graveside enveloped in deepening darkness, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, offered sympathies to Kennedy relatives and "an extended family that must probably include most of America."
Earlier, Obama delivered the eulogy in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, packed with row upon row of mourners — including former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
"He was given a gift of time that his brothers were not. And he used that time to touch as many lives and right as many wrongs as the years would allow," Obama said in remarks that also gently made mention of Kennedy’s "personal failings and setbacks."
As a member of the Senate, Kennedy was a "veritable force of nature," the president said. But more than that, he was the "baby of the family who became its patriarch, the restless dreamer who became its rock."
One of Kennedy’s sons, Patrick, wept quietly as another, Teddy Jr., spoke from the pulpit. Teddy Jr. recalled the day years ago, shortly after losing a leg to cancer, that he slipped walking up an icy driveway as he headed out to go sledding. "I started to cry and I said, `I’ll never be able to climb up that hill.’"
"And he lifted me up in his strong, gentle arms and said something I will never forget. He said, `I know you can do it. There is nothing that you can’t do.’"
Kennedy’s freshly excavated gravesite was on a gently sloping Virginia hillside, flanked by a pair of maple trees. His brother Robert, killed in 1968 while running for president, lies 100 feet away. It is another 100 feet to the eternal flame that has burned since 1963 for John F. Kennedy, president when he was assassinated.
Saturday’s events marked the end of four days of public and private mourning meant to emphasize Kennedy’s 47 years in the Senate from Massachusetts, his standing as the foremost liberal Democrat of the late 20th century yet a legislator who courted compromise with Republicans, a family man and last heir to a dynasty that began in the years after World War II.