Inside Ted Kennedy’s Final Days

(gentle piano music) Teddy Kennedy sat front and center on his father's lap in this photograph of America's royal family. He was the baby of the clan, a child pampered by his big sisters. Together, we can build the future of Massachusetts. He served in the Senate for 47 years, the third longest tenure ever, and became known as the Lion of the Senate. But he also endured tragedies and scandals like no other figure in American history. He was by Jackie's side as they escorted the assassinated President Kennedy's casket in 1963. Five years later, he broke down as he delivered the eulogy at his brother Bobby's funeral. To be remembered simply as a good an decent man who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. It seemed inevitable that Ted would pick up the torch and run for president. Then came Chappaquiddick. The passenger in his car, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned. Kennedy went on live TV and tried to explain his behavior. There is no truth, no truth whatever, to the widely circulated suspicions of immoral conduct that have been leveled at my behavior. Chappaquiddick haunted him. As time passed, he sought to redeem himself. He lost the Democratic nomination to President Jimmy Carter in 1980, but went down swinging. The cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dreams shall never die. The tragedies continued to mount. He divorced first wife Joan and it was revealed that she had become an alcoholic. Kennedy has his own drinking problems. He hit bottom in 1991, when he testified at the rape trial of his nephew, William Kennedy Smith. Did you hear any screams? No, I did not. In a remarkable speech that same year, Kennedy confessed that he alone was responsible for his personal problems. I realize that I alone am responsible for them and I am the one who must confront them. But tragedy always seemed to be shadowing him. In 1999, he buried his nephew, John F. Kennedy, Jr., who died in a plane crash off Martha's Vineyard. He spoke about it emotionally on 60 Minutes. I remember the Friday night, I guess the night actually that he was lost, and we gathered at Ethel's house. I think we better walk along. Barack Obama! He passed the Kennedy legacy to a new generation in 2008 when he endorsed Barack Obama for president and became the embodiment of a profile in courage in his final days as he battled the brain tumor that would kill him. For his family, he was a guardian. For America, he was a defender of a dream. President Obama pays a somber tribute to Ted Kennedy just hours after the 77-year-old American icon lost his battle with brain cancer. The First Family was just beginning their week-long vacation here on Martha's Vineyard, which is just a short trip across the Nantucket Sound. Kennedy died at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port shortly before midnight. His three children, two stepchildren, and wife Vicki by his side. A priest was also with him. Matt Mehar is in Hyannis Port. We're getting new information about how Senator Kennedy spent the last hours of his life. According to a family priest summoned to the Kennedy compound late last night, the senator was surrounded by family and told them he was ready to die. The priest adds that Kennedy was going in and out of consciousness, but understood most of what the family was saying. The truth is he had expressed to his family that he did want to go, did want to go to heaven. There was a certain amount of peace. His funeral will take place Saturday at Boston's Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church. (dramatic music) This is a CBS News special report. An American icon of politics is dead. Networks broke into late night programming to announce the death. His death brings to a close the courageous 15-month-long battle. He was released from the hospital in May last year, facing the grim diagnosis of inoperable brain cancer. You can see the white bandage covering his skull. He was determined to speak at the Democratic National Convention, knowing it would likely be his last. The hope rises again and the dream lives on. (audience cheers) He lived long enough to see Obama inaugurated president, but moments after greeting the new president at the inauguration lunch, he suffered a seizure and was rushed to the hospital. Right now, a part of me is with him. Kennedy spent his final months monitoring the national debate on healthcare and putting the finishing touches on his memoir, "True Compass," out next month. His sister, Eunice, died two weeks ago and he did not attend her funeral. It was a sure sign his final days had come. (trumpet playing "Taps") The Kennedy clan was out in force Friday warmly greeting the tens of thousands bidding a final farewell to Senator Ted Kennedy. A teary-eyed Vicki Kennedy was clearly moved by the outpouring of love for her late husband, warmly hugging mourners on the viewing line. It means so much to all of us. Thank you for being here. Ted Kennedy's widow impressed everyone with her poise and grace, stepping outside the JFK library to personally welcome the thousands who showed up. So our whole family is deeply grateful, deeply grateful for this outpouring of love and that's why I wanted personally to come and just to thank as many people as I could. Ted's grieving daughter, Kara, with her two children also chatted with regular folks waiting to pay their respects, and his son, Patrick, a member of Congress, shook hands. And Jean Kennedy Smith, Ted's sister and now the sole survivor of Camelot, smiled, speaking with visitors passing by the flag-draped casket. At her side, her son, William Kennedy Smith. The family added extra viewing hours to accommodate the tremendous crowds. My husband and I live in New Hampshire and we got up at about two and drove down here just because we felt it was important to be here. Among the throngs, Jesse Jackson and Senator John Kerry and Kennedy after Kennedy poignantly kneeled down in front of the casket, paying their final respects to the late family patriarch. Our Matt Mehar is at the JFK Library. President Obama is cutting his vacation on Martha's Vineyard short and flying to Boston early. He's concerned that Tropical Storm Danny could cause travel delays and he doesn't want to miss giving the eulogy for his mentor and friend. (trumpet playing "Taps") The farewell to Kennedy is filled with pomp and ceremony. An honor guard stands by protecting the casket, switching shifts with military precision. Through the day and night, the Kennedys with close friends, including famed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, took turns keeping vigil over the casket, sitting solemnly in front, never leaving Ted alone for a moment. They set it up so that four people sit there, and then when the hour's over, they tap you on the shoulder and another four take your place. But watching the faces of those people come through, some of them saluting him, some bowing their Red Sox caps, you felt that they knew this man. A fitting final tribute to the Lion of the Senate. (trumpet playing "Taps")

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