But today I'm simply compelled to remember Ted Kennedy as my father and my best friend. When I was 12 years old, I was diagnosed with bone cancer. And a few months after I lost my leg, there was a heavy snowfall over my childhood home outside of Washington D.C. And my father went to the garage to get the old Flexible Flyer, and asked me if I wanted to go sledding down the steep driveway.
And I was trying to get used to my new artificial leg. And the hill was covered with ice and snow. And it wasn't easy for me to walk. And the hill was very slick. And as I struggled to walk, I slipped and I fell on the ice. And I started to cry and I said, I can't do this. 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. We're going to climb that hill together, even if it takes us all day.
Sure enough, he held me around my waist and we slowly made it to the top. And you know, at age 12 losing your leg pretty much seems like the end of the world. But as I climbed on to his back and we flew down the hill that day, I knew he was right. I knew I was going to be OK.
You see, my father taught me that even our most profound losses are survivable, and that is -- it is what we do with that loss, our ability to transform it into a positive event, that is one of my father's greatest lessons.
He taught me that nothing is impossible. During the summer months when I was growing up, my father would arrive late in the afternoon from Washington on Fridays. And as soon as he got to Cape Cod, he would want to go straight out and practice sailing maneuvers on the Victoria, in anticipation of that weekend's races.
And we'd be out late and the sun would be setting and family dinner would be getting cold. And we'd be out there practicing our jibes and our spinnaker sets, long after everyone else had gone ashore.
One night, not another boat in sight on the summer sea, I asked him, why are we always the last ones on the water? Teddy, he said, you see, most of the other sailors that we race against are smarter and more talented than we are. But the reason... but the reason why we're going to win is that we will work harder than them, and we will be better prepared. And he just wasn't talking about boating. My father admired perseverance. My father believed that to do a job effectively required a tremendous amount of time and effort.
Dad instilled in me also the importance of history and biography. He loved Boston, and the amazing writers and philosophers and politicians from Massachusetts. He took me and my cousins to the old North Church and to Walden Pond and to the homes of Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne in the Berkshires.
He thought that Massachusetts was the greatest place on Earth. And he had letters from many of its former senators, like Daniel Webster and John Quincy Adams, hanging on his walls, inspired by things heroic.
He was a Civil War buff. When we were growing up, he would pack us all into his car or rented camper, and we would travel around to all the great battlefields. I remember he would frequently meet with his friend, Shelby Foot, at a particular site on the anniversary of a historic battle, just so he could appreciate better what the soldiers must have experienced on that day.