I was in a hurry. I was eating a sandwich while I surfed the web, trolling for news. I saw the web site headline: “A senator dies.”
In the moment before I clicked on the link, I wondered whether the senator might be from a state with a governor from the opposite party.
You know where I’m coming from, right?
Then I clicked the link. I saw Paul Wellstone’s face. I blinked once. I slumped back in my chair.
If you’re a novelist, you can’t write a story like this: it’s too unbelievable. Especially coming almost two years to the day after the death of Mel Carnahan.
I read that his wife and daughter were also killed. He is survived by two sons and six grandchildren. My heart broke for his family and friends.
By now you’ve read the story arc of his life: son of Russian immigrants, radical 60s activist, college professor. He was a long-shot senate candidate who defied the odds and got elected. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
I never met Wellstone but I felt I had a rapport with him. I felt like I knew him. He grew up in a culture like mine at the same time I did. He was even the same age as my brother. I considered him too liberal for me most of the time. But, like in a family, when it’s time to fight, you pull together. Besides, he seemed authentic. I liked that.
His first big vote in the Senate was against the Gulf War; his last, against regime change. Even when his very re-election might be riding on his vote (as it was this year), he ignored the polls and voted with his heart and mind. In that, he was nearly alone — no other Democratic senator involved in a close re-election race voted against the resolution. It was “pure Wellstone” and his constituency appreciated him for that kind of leadership and integrity.
And another thing: his colleagues — both friendly and adversarial — were genuinely moved upon hearing of his death. They were universal in their praise, respect and affection for him. That tells you a lot about a man; it tells you a lot about Paul Wellstone.
Note: if you are interested in reading more, Arianna Huffington’s Death of a Populist Giant says it best.
There is a prayer in Judaism, the Kaddish, the Mourner’s Prayer. It is said for any member of the Jewish People who has passed away. Jews believe that by reciting Kaddish on a soul’s behalf, by saying this prayer, it allows the soul to climb to the next level or “world”.
It is recited by members of the mourning family at daily services, but the rest of the congregation recites parts of it in support. The last part contains these words:
Oseh sholom bimromov, hu ya’aseh sholom olaynu…vimru Omein.
“He who makes peace in His heavens, may He make peace for us…Amen.”