EXCERPT: Ted Kennedy's 'True Compass'

I felt joyous and exuberant through the inevitable exhaustion of the Democratic primary campaign, as I had felt in Wyoming and West Virginia in 1960 for Jack, and in Indiana and California in 1968 for Bobby. "No one said we couldn't have a little fun!" I shouted to a Latino crowd in San Antonio before belting out "Ay Jalisco No Te Rajes" in my version of Spanish. I had so much fun that I sang it again in Laredo. By mid-May, Obama had won the crucial North Carolina primary and had taken the lead in committed delegates. Some commentators were declaring the race already over. I certainly intended to keep on campaigning for him through the late spring and summer, but there was time to steal away for a few sails on Nantucket Sound.

On May 16 I took part in a ceremony at a favorite historic site of mine, the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, where I joined Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank and others to cut the ribbon at the Corson Maritime Learning Center. Barney and I had secured appropriations for repairs and other improvements to the building after it was damaged in a 1997 fire. I felt especially good that day, and threw away my prepared remarks to speak from my heart about my love for New Bedford, and the sea, and for the connection to our history that the park represented. Vicki told me afterward that Barbara Souliotis, our dear friend and the longtime chief of staff of my Boston office, who was sitting beside her, turned and whispered, "He's really on today!" I certainly felt "on." Change was in the air. And tomorrow, Vicki and I would enjoy our first sail of the year.

But that next morning, everything changed.

I had just meandered through the living room and had come within two steps of the grand piano that my mother, Rose, used to play for the family more than half a century ago as we gathered for dinner. Sometimes Jack, young and thin in his customary rumpled pullover, would stand at about the spot where I passed just then, and sing a solo to Mother's accompaniment.

Suddenly I felt disoriented. I moved toward the door leading to the porch, where several spacious chairs face the lovely prospect that I've known since childhood: a view to Nantucket Sound and the several masted boats at anchor in the nearby harbor. "Well," I told myself, "I'll just go outside and get some fresh air."

I didn't make it outside. Everything seemed hazy. I walked past the front door and into the dining room, where I lowered myself into a chair. That's the last thing I remember until I awoke in the hospital.

I learned later that I'd been discovered almost at once by Judy Campbell, our household assistant. Judy called out for Vicki, who was still in the sunroom, waiting for me to return. When Vicki saw me, she ran to my side and instructed Judy to call 911, and then my physician in Boston, Dr. Larry Ronan. As she waited for the local rescue team to arrive, Vicki wedged herself into the chair beside me and cradled my head. I was not aware of it then, but she held me tenderly, kissing my cheek and patting me and whispering, "You're going to be okay."

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