WASHINGTON (CNN) – Long before Sen. Edward Kennedy was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, the Massachusetts Democrat had already begun planning aspects of his funeral in anticipation of his eventual death.
Rep. Richard Neal, D-Massachusetts, told CNN Friday that Kennedy had informed fellow members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation in 2007 that he had been working on his memorial plans as well as reflecting on his legacy, including the core issue he had championed during his time in the Senate: health care.
"Well, I will tell you about two and a half years ago, when Congressman Meehan decided that he was going to become the chancellor of UMass, we had a little delegation dinner at Legal Sea foods and Senator Kennedy was there and he was in good form, and at that time he laid out for us what the service and ceremony was going to be like," Neal said in an interview Friday with Ed Henry and Mark Preston on CNN Radio's "44 with Ed Henry." "And I thought it was remarkable that the story held. None of us ever (thought) we should trespass on what he was saying that evening. And he talked about his legacy and what he had done, and he certainly raised the health care issue."
Rep. Martin Meehan, D-Massachusetts, announced in the spring of 2007 that he was resigning from office to become the next head of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. Meehan's final day in Congress was July 1 of that year.
Kennedy, who died August 25, 2009, was diagnosed with the brain tumor in May 2008.
A source close to the Kennedy family, who was unaware of the 2007 meeting at Legal Sea Foods in Washington, DC, but involved in helping plan the senator's funeral, said it is not surprising that Kennedy revealed that information.
"I can imagine he spoke in broad strokes about it," said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The source added that the senator had really focused on specific arrangements of his funeral and memorial service in the months leading up to his death.
Earlier this week, in his national televised speech before Congress, President Barack Obama quoted from a previously undisclosed letter that Kennedy had written to him, in which the senator told the president he believed health care reform would be enacted this year. Obama said Kennedy instructed him to reveal the contents of the letter - dated May 12, 2009 - after his death.