Eulogy for Saoirse Roisin Kennedy Hill

saoirse sailing.jpeg

Fr. Perry. Fr. Finley. Fr. MacMillan.

On behalf of our entire family, we thank you and this community for welcoming us back. We have been here many times for both happy and sad occasions. You have always been here for us and prayed for us. Thank you.

Now I know many holy people have come here to pray, but I’d like to introduce Saoirse’s cause for sainthood right now. You need a miracle to prove someone is a saint, but we can all see one right before our eyes: A Shriver is speaking at a major RFK event! “And The Healing Has Begun.”

More seriously, I am not here representing my family. I am here representing Saoirse’s family and it is a big one.

She was an only child with a hundred brothers and sisters.

She was the daughter of two beautiful parents and dozens more mothers and fathers eager to have her.

She was a student of communications who taught her many uncles and aunts to speak from the heart.

She was a child of America but also a child of Ireland and also a child of the sea where no country exists.

She was all of ours and yet she seemed to stroll the universe and be bound nowhere. Thank you Courtney and Paul for sharing your amazing daughter with all of us.

If all I could do today was to reflect back to each of you cousins and friends how beautiful it has been to watch you grow up with Saoirse, to welcome her, to laugh with her, to challenge her, to skin your knees with her, to sail with her, to do homework with her, to cry with her, to steal her clothes and tattoo her skin and drive her crazy and in these last few pain drenched days, to draw her into your soul where she will never leave—if all I could do is help you see what she now surely sees—that you loved her so much and so well and so beautifully—that is my hope. That you know how beautiful it was to watch you love her in life and that you know how beautiful each of you are in her eyes now.

I think I share with many of you the sense that Saoirse was most happy on the sea. And that meant that she was most happy wearing very little clothing. I mean so little clothing that I frequently had to look away. But she didn’t just sit around on the sea. Beaches, Boats, Breakwaters, Buoys. She took them all on. In a special way, she seemed to own that HH buoy. So I say, we rename that buoy, the “SKH” buoy. And let’s have a flotilla out to it sometime soon. And when we jump off, in that second of suspension between jumping off and splashing down, breathe her in and smile your biggest smile and she’s sure to be jumping with you. She loved the sea and the air and the leaps in life and they all loved her back.

Now we know her talents were many and over these days, we’ve been hearing about many of them. She was an athlete, an activist, a student, a writer, a mischief maker, an adventurer, a sleuth. If only she’d made it to the FBI—she would’ve caught every crook. Imagine if she’d been the investigator and it had been the “Saoirse Report” instead of the “Mueller Report!” She might’ve changed the course of history!

But beneath all her talents was a woman of enormous power and agency, a woman determined to seek out what she wanted. No, not seek it; demand it!

She wanted Linda to be her Godmother so at the age of 18, she got a new Godmother!

She wanted a family and look around you, she got one!

She wanted to heal and so she worked at it and sought it and talked about it and she healed because that’s the way you heal!

And she wanted to party, and well—like I said, she got what she wanted!

She was beautiful and strong and fun. But maybe more surprising than anything, at such a young age, she was already wise.

Just two months ago, she came to our house to celebrate her birthday. It was just a few of us. We almost never eat outside, but that night, Saoirse had us move dinner outside. So we sat under the May sky on a beautiful night with a light wind and we ate and talked and laughed.

And at one point, the conversation turned to that birthday talk—what does it feel like and what do you remember from your last year and that kind of thing. And then I asked her a slightly different question: “What do you want to learn in your 22nd year?”

Without a second’s pause, she answered: “I want to learn to love myself.”

We were all a bit stunned I think—at least I was. We stumbled a bit…”that’s a good one.” Or “can’t we convince you?” and that kind of thing.

But we knew—all of us—that it was our question too. And I think we knew that we didn’t know how to answer it; that as much as we wished we could tell her how or mirror it to her, she could only answer it for herself.

That question is echoing in my soul now. But in these last few days, something has happened here. To us, not by us. This village of Hyannisport that we know for its celebrities and scions, for daredevils and night owls, for parties and pathbreakers—has changed.

Everywhere, there is a gentleness here now. A love. A deep and breathtakingly beautiful vulnerability. Eyes are meeting. Voices are softening. Laughter is gentler. We are not afraid to cry anymore.

We prize bravery here but all of a sudden, bravery has become facing our pain, the most brave thing any of us can do.

We prize beauty here but all of a sudden, beauty has become welcoming the light within each of us.

We prize success here but all of a sudden, success has become loving ourselves and one another without judgement.

We are—and I can say these words without fantasy or delusion—we are being changed by a wounded healer, by Saoirse Roisin Kennedy Hill. This woman who wanted to learn is now teaching. This is her real and true miracle. What no one in our family has done for a century, she has done. She is leading us to learn what she now knows: that we are each enough in the eyes of God. No more earning it. And no more running away from it either.

Don’t take my word for it. Drop down into your own heart. Let words cease for a moment of two. Place your hand over your heart and feel the openness, the emptiness, the awe. In silence, listen for your own name. Hear it spoken in Saoirse’s voice.

I am sure she is there. I am sure the healing has begun. And I am sure that in this her year of being 22, she learned the lesson she most wanted to learn. And I’m equally sure she’s teaching it to each of us already. We would do well to listen closely and deeply. Our own lives depend on it too.

It is with the deepest sense of sadness that Linda and I and Rose, Tim, Sam, Kathleen, and Caroline share with all of you this moment. I know I felt like she was ours too. I felt like she chose us. Your own kids don’t chose you after all. They can’t. But I felt like Saoirse chose me. Chose us. She would come to us with that amazing smile. “Welcome home Saoirse,” I would say. “How are you??” And she would always answer, “Better now that I’m with you.”

Her stories will last a lifetime. And so too will the pain.

And yes, we are no strangers to pain. Courtney. Paul. Ethel. All of us are heart broken with you. We cannot offer an answer.

But we do offer this:

While we cannot understand, we can love.

While we cannot fix the wound, we can heal each other.

While we cannot know the path ahead, we can promise to travel it with you.

And while we cannot know the precise place where Saoirse’s white hot soul is now, we can promise to listen and look for her presence and to learn as she said she wanted to learn, to love ourselves and in loving the precious gift God created that is each of us, to love her all the more and with abandon, to love each other too.

I love you Saoirse.