Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors

Senator Kennedy Did NOT “Lose” Battle With Cancer

When I opened this morning’s New York Times, the first words I read were those splashed across the front page: Senator Kennedy, Battle Lost, Is Hailed as a Leader. How wrong they were to use those words.
Neither Senator Kennedy, nor anyone else who battles a terminal illness, extends their lives as much as possible and finds what they consider to be a good ending, can ever be thought of as losing the battle. In fact, they are all winners in the truest sense of the word.
Having already been diagnosed with a fatal disease, the battle is for a decent life and a decent end to it, not a victory over the illness – that would be impossible and therefore not what was ever being sought. Yes, this is a personal issue for me as I have had a rare form of cancer called Carcinoid. It was successfully addressed with surgery four years ago, and thankfully has not recurred. The longer I go with no sign of disease the better off I am, at least from a statistical standpoint. But were I not so fortunate, blessed, lucky (take your pick), the battle would be to make the best possible use of the time I was given.


Ironically, that’s true for all of us whether we have many years on this earth or few. So unless one considers any death a defeat in an eternal battle with illness, fate or time, then the only way to lose is by not making the most of every day we have.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not looking to go anywhere, no matter how good my life has been so far, and I know first-hand that it feels like a fight when you are engaged with the disease. But I think it’s crucial that we acknowledge that once you know the outcome, it’s no longer a fight that can be lost (or perhaps that that fight has already been lost) and what is left is a fight that can be won – to enjoy the gifts of each day, the love of family and friends, and the opportunity to make some contribution to the lives of others.
Millions of people are winning that fight every day, and it appears that Senator Kennedy did as well. We should all be blessed with long healthy lives, but the sad truth is not all of us will be so blessed. What can we do about it? Among other things, we can make sure that we win the battles that we can and Senator Kennedy was a great model of how to do that.

  • Robert R.

    Rabbi, I rejoice that your treatment has been successful. And with your kind of cancer, maybe you really should not be surprised to be blessed with many more years. This from your faithful reader who is not always popular (to put it mildly) with your Zionist fans.

  • marta

    Rabbi, thank you so much for your words. Last fall, I spent several days a week in a pediatric oncology ward, where my nephew was being treated. When you are surrounded by kids with bad cancers, many of them dying (including in my case “our” patient), it does change your outlook on death. What you say about the quality of life rather than the quantity of it seems very true to me.

  • Lucy

    Excellent point, Rabbi. Ultimately, we all lose the “battle” with death. Kennedy met death with dignity and to the end of his life, he fought for those things that were important to him. His spirit remained strong and he was fortunate that his mental abilities were not taken from him by the disease. I was sorry that he died but glad that he died the way he did.
    I have a friend whose husband developed Parkinson’s disease at a relatively young age and in his case, it has caused dementia. It is heartbreaking to see the deterioration of a man who had been brilliant. He knows he is not himself, that there is something wrong, and it causes him great anxiety. It is a horrible, slow way to end one’s life and it is terrible for his wife to watch. In a way, Kennedy was fortunate.

  • Brendan Pieters

    Rabbi Brad,
    In response to your Ted Kennedy won, not lost, the battle: I had a brain tumor (atypical meningioma) removed 7 years ago, so I share in your victory.
    Thanks for “Windows and Doors.” I’m not Jewish (tho my daughter is, and I also believe that you can’t be more Jewish than to be a Christian). Nonetheless, your work is an important spiritual resource for me.
    Peace, Love, Blessings,

  • zed

    As soon as cancer was found, there was an immediate attempt, by the
    “mainstream” media, at canonization of old Teddy. They are saying what
    a “great American” he is. Let’s get a couple things clear and not
    twist the facts to change the real history.
    1. He was caught cheating at Harvard when he attended it. He was
    expelled twice, once for cheating on a test, and once for paying a
    classmate to cheat for him.
    2. While expelled, Kennedy enlisted in the Army, but mistakenly signed
    up for four years instead of two. Oops, the man can’t count to four.
    His father, Joseph P. Kennedy, former U.S. Ambassador to England (a
    step up from bootlegging liquor into the US from Canada during
    prohibition) , pulled the necessary strings to have his enlistment
    shortened to two years, and to ensure that he served in Europe, not
    Korea , where a war was raging. No preferential treatment for him like
    “he” charged President Bush received.
    3. Kennedy was assigned to Paris, never advanced beyond the rank of
    Private, and returned to Harvard upon being discharged. Imagine a
    person of his “education” NEVER advancing past the rank of Private.
    4. While attending law school at the University of Virginia, he was
    cited for reckless driving four times, including once when he was
    clocked driving 90 miles per hour in a residential neighborhood with
    his headlights off after dark. Yet his Virginia driver’s license was
    never revoked. Coincidentally, he passed the bar exam in 1959,
    5. In 1964, he was seriously injured in a plane crash, and
    hospitalized for several months. Test results done by the hospital at
    the time he was admitted had shown he was legally intoxicated. The
    results of those tests remained a “state secret” until in the 1980’s
    when the report was unsealed. Didn’t hear about that from the unbiased
    media, did we.
    6. On July 19, 1969, Kennedy attended a party on Chappaquiddick Island
    in Massachusetts. At about 11:00 PM, he borrowed his chauffeur’s keys
    to his Oldsmobile limousine, and offered to give a ride home to Mary
    Jo Kopechne, a campaign worker. Leaving the island via an unlit bridge
    with no guard rail, Kennedy steered the car off the bridge, flipped,
    and into Poucha Pond.
    7. He swam to shore and walked back to the party, after passing
    several houses and a fire station. Then two friends returned with him
    to the scene of the accident. According to their later testimony, they
    told him what he already knew, that he was required by law to
    immediately report the accident to the authorities. Instead Kennedy
    made his way to his hotel, called his lawyer, and went to sleep.
    Kennedy called the police the next morning and by then the wreck had
    already been discovered. Before dying, Kopechne had scratched at the
    upholstered floor above her head in the upside-down car. The Kennedy
    family began “calling in favors”, ensuring that any inquiry would be
    contained. Her corpse was whisked out-of-state to her family, before
    an autopsy could be conducted. Further details are uncertain, but
    after the accident Kennedy says he repeatedly dove under the water
    trying to rescue Kopecne, and he didn’t call police because he was in
    a state of shock. It is widely assumed Kennedy was drunk, and he held
    off calling police in hopes that his family could fix the problem
    overnight. Since the accident, Kennedy’s “political enemies” have
    referred to him as the distinguished Senator from Chappaquiddick. He
    pled guilty to leaving the scene of an accident, and was given a
    SUSPENDED SENTENCE OF TWO MONTHS. Kopechne’s family received a small
    payout from the Kennedy’s insurance policy, and never sued. There was
    later an effort to have her body exhumed and autopsied, but her family
    successfully fought against this in court, and Kennedy’s family paid
    their attorney’s bills… a “token of friendship”?
    8. Kennedy has held his Senate seat for more than forty years, but
    considering his longevity, his accomplishments seem scant. He authored
    or argued for legislation that ensured a variety of civil rights,
    increased the minimum wage in 1981, made access to health care easier
    for the indigent, and funded Meals on Wheels for fixed-income seniors
    and is widely held as the “standard-bearer for liberalism”. In his
    very first Senate roll, he was the floor manager for the bill that
    turned U.S. immigration policy upside down and opened the floodgate
    for immigrants from third world countries.
    9. Since that time, he has been the prime instigator and author of
    every expansion of and increase in immigration, up to and including
    the latest attempt to grant amnesty to illegal aliens. Not to mention
    the Pious grilling he gave the last two Supreme Court Nominees, as if
    he were the standard bearer for the nation in matters of right. What a
    pompous ass.
    10. He is known around Washington as a public drunk, loud, boisterous
    and very disrespectful to ladies. JERK is a better description than
    “great American”.
    Of course, as this past election has demonstrated, previous history
    and associations no longer matter… long as the “mainstream media”
    loves you and covers for you.

  • pagansister

    And we assume, zed, you’ve never made any mistakes in your life. Yes, Senator Kennedy most certainly made lots of mistakes, which he admitted as he matured were of his own making. If it weren’t for the Kennedy money, no one would have known about them. However, because of the public life of the family, everyone knows. In spite of those mistakes, he did many good things for his state and his country. Not as an excuse, but he also had much more tragedy in his life than many folks…2 brothers shot, 2 of his 3 kids developing cancer, a couple of sisters died early, etc. Those I’m sure you know. He’s dead now…so you don’t have to worry that he will continue to do Good.

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