Politics

Yet Another Kennedy Dies a Tragic and Shocking Death

As further details emerge about a young member of the famous family who succumbed to an apparent overdose, this author recalls moving words about grief written by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend not that long ago

This is profoundly sad — and millions of Americans are sharing one iconic family’s tremendous grief right now.

A granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy passed away on Thursday of a suspected drug overdose at the family’s Cape Cod mansion, according to multiple news reports.

Saoirse Kennedy Hill was just 22. She was “already in cardiac arrest” when medics arrived, according to The New York Post’s Friday morning story about the tragedy.

The young Kennedy family member was pronounced dead at Cape Cod Hospital. The New York Times noted that the suspected cause was an overdose; a police investigation is still ongoing.

An initial autopsy on Friday revealed no suspicious signs of trauma, according to reports.

She had previously written about her struggles with mental illness and depression.

“Our hearts are shattered by the loss of our beloved Saoirse,” the family said in a statement. “We will love her and will miss her forever.”

“The gaping hole that she leaves in our family is a wound too large to ever heal,” Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an uncle of the deceased young woman, wrote on Instagram on Friday.

Saoirse Kennedy Hill was a daughter of Courtney Kennedy Hill — the fifth of Robert and Ethel Kennedy’s 11 children. She had been studying mass media and communications at Boston College, according to reports — and had previously written about her struggles with mental illness and depression.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the eldest of Robert F. Kennedy’s 11 children and the mother of four daughters herself, has written previously — and very movingly — about the profound grief suffered by the Kennedy family over the years.

Townsend, an attorney, served as lieutenant governor of Maryland from 1995 to 2003. Today she is director of retirement security at the Economic Policy Institute.

In an original piece she wrote about a decade ago — published in Reader’s Digest magazine in November 2008 (this author was a senior editor of that piece) — Townsend began by saying, “Death has been ever present in my life. I was named for my aunt Kathleen, who died in a plane crash three years before I was born. My brother Joe was named for our uncle Joe, who had been killed in World War II, as had Kathleen’s husband, Billy Hartington. My parents, Robert and Ethel, often talked about these three young people, each dead before the age of 30.”

“Many of these deaths are not news to you. They’re part of the public record.” After sharing a list of other tragedies she and her family endured, she then wrote this: “My father was killed in June 1968 when I was 16 and the oldest of 10 children. My youngest sister was born in December of that year.”

She added, “While I didn’t know my aunt and uncles and had never actually met them in the flesh, remembering them and honoring their memory was part of our daily ritual. I knew from the youngest age that death would take the vivacious and the brave. Immunity was not possible.”

And then, after mentioning too many more Kennedy tragedies for any one person or family to bear, Townsend said, “Many of these deaths are not news to you. They’re part of the public record. What remains a mystery is how people cope. How do we go on?”

“The most straightforward answer I can give,” she said with enormous stoicism and grace, “is the same way that generations before have gone on.”

“We acknowledge the pain and the loss. We develop rituals — religious services, music, funerals, and wakes — where friends gather, hug one another, cry together, and share stories and laughs. And we remember.”

She also said this: “We must live for those who [are] still with us.”

Share your thoughts on this story below.

This article has been updated with some of the latest information.

meet the author

LifeZette's Editor-in-Chief Maureen Mackey helped launch the site from its earliest days and previously served as its managing editor. Prior to her time at LifeZette, she held senior editorial positions at several national publications and is a former book editor. Her work has appeared in many outlets including Real Clear Politics, CNBC, The Fiscal Times, A Fine Line, AARP Magazine, Reader's Digest, and Fordham Magazine. She is a member of the Newswomen's Club of New York and the American Legion Auxiliary. She can be reached at [email protected].

Join the Discussion

COMMENTS POLICY: We have no tolerance for messages of violence, racism, vulgarity, obscenity or other such discourteous behavior. Thank you for contributing to a respectful and useful online dialogue.