In the gardens of the family mansion at her Hamptons estate, Jean Kennedy Smith, who has died aged 92, grew crocuses and snowdrops. They were a reminder, perhaps, that some flowers bloom in winter.
In a group of siblings that produced a US president - JFK - and two senators, Robert F Kennedy and Edward M Kennedy, it was perhaps inevitable that Jean would for much of her life be resigned to the role of campaigner, supporter and charity dame.
Her intelligence and great drive were eclipsed by her more illustrious family member and she led, The New York Times observed, "a quiet life of privilege and philanthropy, with palatial homes, summers at the shore and a busy calendar of society functions". But like the hardy snowdrop, Jean came into her own just as her family was experiencing its own winter.
As relentless tragedy, the so-called Kennedy curse, claimed these great men, as the lore of the family grew, and as the role of women in politics progressed, the stage was set for her to make her own mark on the world.
In 1993, when she was already a widow and at an age - 65- when most people are pondering retirement, she was named ambassador to Dublin by then US president Bill Clinton.
She had the advantage of her name. The Kennedys had, of course, deep roots here and John F Kennedy, America's first Catholic president, was regarded as a virtual saint. But her appointment also came at a pivotal moment in Irish history and the perception was that she was a dilettante, a brand name, whose founding of an arts group for disabled adults seemed too thin a career highlight to warrant the role on merit.
The Los Angeles Times noted that many resented her for getting the post. Speaking of the naysayers once to Conor Cleary of The Irish Times, she said: "They said I did charity work, but if I were a man, they would have said that I ran an international organisation."
In truth she was not, then, well versed in the intricacies of Irish political life and the tumour that grew upon it: The Troubles. But she had certain advantages, too; an already abiding relationship with key figures in the conflict, including John Hume and Gerry Adams, and a lived understanding of the personal toll of violence.
"When I first came here [to Ireland] we saw in the news that a woman's husband had been shot," she said, during an interview with Kevin Cullen of The Boston Globe. "I said I wanted to stop by and see her. So we did.
"We just took a long walk, the woman and I, and she told me the story of how it happened. She was extremely brave, and I was very moved. She opened up to me, because I think she saw me as someone who's been through it."
At times she ran roughshod over protocol. She was warned by Secretary of State Warren Christopher for removing two senior staff members who disagreed with her views.
She visited the North, although American diplomatic policy forbade this, and met many times with Gerry Adams. She began urging Clinton to grant Adams a visa to the US.
The British prime minister John Major was deeply opposed to this - but Smith, with the support of her brother Ted, considered it an essential way to show Irish republicans that there was much to gain if they ended their war. It was a tactic that worked, and she continued to lend Adams an aura of respectability and intervened when the IRA ceasefire broke down in 1996.
When the Good Friday Agreement was signed two years later, she was characteristically modest about her role. "I was a cog, really, in the machine that was moving," she said. "I was fortunate to be here and to, perhaps, add momentum to what was happening."
Her acute awareness of tribalism - she once took communion in a Protestant cathedral in Dublin - was perhaps forged in her youth as a scion of the most famous Irish-American political dynasty.
She grew up the eighth of nine children of Joe and Rose Kennedy and lived a life of gilded privilege. In her memoir, Times to Remember, Rose Kennedy wrote that, of all her children, Jean was the closest to Ted. "They were a pair," she wrote. "They trotted around together; she sometimes admonished him and sometimes scrapped with him but mainly was his valiant friend and big sister."
She attended Manhattanville College which has links to Ireland (it is one of the few American colleges with an Irish studies programme) and graduated with a degree in English.
She introduced three of her brothers to their future wives and she herself married Stephen Smith, a political strategist who had worked on JFK's 1960 presidential campaign and advised the family on financial matters.
He died in 1990 and the following year she had to endure the pain of watching their youngest son, William Kennedy Smith, go on trial in Florida on rape charges.
During the trial she publicly supported him and sat on the same bench as his accuser's mother. When it was over, and William was acquitted, she said she felt "relieved" and "wonderful".
She was the last of the greatest generation of Kennedys, but, acutely aware of the baggage that came with the name, she sought to downplay the symbolism of her involvement in the such a defining moment in the development of the nation.
"I was part of the tide," she told me, days before she left her ambassador's office for the last time.
"I really didn't think of it as a Kennedy thing. I thought of it as a moment. A moment in history."