The service led by former President John F. Kennedy's nephew Tim Shriver

By Adam Carlson
April 06, 2020 12:44 PM
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Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean, her husband David and their son Gideon.
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A family as large as the Kennedys — with its many generations by decade and its many branches by marriage — often only gathers for weddings and funerals. And so it was in recent days, following the presumed deaths of Robert F. Kennedy‘s granddaughter Maeve McKean and her son, Gideon.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has precluded any kind of physical memorial. But dozens and dozens of the extended clan joined together remotely for a recent prayer service led by former President John F. Kennedy‘s nephew Tim Shriver.

McKean’s uncle Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Sunday shared a photo of about 120 relatives on a Zoom video call for a “family prayer service.”

Among the attendees were the Kennedys as well as the Cuomos, Lawfords, Schlossbergs, Schwarzeneggers and Shrivers.

On Friday night, the family announced they believed that McKean and her son had died while canoeing on Thursday afternoon. The pair had simply set out into what they thought was calm water in a cove of the Chesapeake Bay in order to retrieve a ball, which had gotten away from them during a game.

But control of the canoe slipped away — out of some combination of wind and tide, it seems — and they ended up in the more dangerous open waters of the bigger bay, where they were seen 30 minutes later.

Their capsized canoe was found that night. The search for their remains is ongoing.

The remote prayer service held by the Kennedy family for Maeve McKean and her son Gideon, believed dead in a canoeing accident
Robert F. Kennedy Jr./Instagram
David McKean and Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean with their family in December
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“This is such a horrible time to lose somebody,” a family friend told PEOPLE last week. “Everyone’s trying to be careful right now.”

“They are having daily Zoom calls among family,” the friend said then. “There will be a memorial service at some point in the future.”

In a statement to PEOPLE on Friday night, McKean’s mom, the former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, said “she gave the best hugs, sang loudly and out of tune, danced, wrestled, argued, forgave. Maeve shone. The fire emanating from her soul warmed us all.” (Maeve’s father, David Lee Townsend, is a professor.)

A lawyer and executive director of Georgetown University’s Global Health Initiative,” McKean’s most-treasured role “was mom,” Townsend said.

Son Gideon was her eldest but McKean also shared daughter Gabriella and son Toby with husband David McKean, also an attorney.

“Our hearts are crushed,” Townsend said in her statement, “yet we shall try to summon the grace of God and what strength we have to honor the hope, energy and passion that Maeve and Gideon set forth into the world.”