Q: It was with great sadness I learned of the death of Senator McCain. I followed his career for many years. I was in college during the late sixties and watched television reports of the return of our prisoners of war from Vietnam. The Senator was a fighter in many arenas so it was mystifying to me when he decided to end treatment for his cancer. Was there nothing else that could have been done for him?
A: Senator McCain endured harsh conditions during his imprisonment in a Hanoi prisoner of war camp. He never fully recovered from his physical injuries but he was a survivor. The experience in large part defined him as the person our country would come to know. Politics aside he leaves behind a legacy that serves as a lesson to all of us.
In his last interview with Tom Brokaw Senator McCain was asked how he wanted to be remembered. His immediate response was “he served his country” and then “I hope we could add honorably”. Senator McCain had great optimism for the United States in spite of any turmoil we sometimes find ourselves in. He had the amazing ability to argue passionately with members of Congress and maintain friendships at the same time.
On a personal level Senator McCain’s death had a profound impact on my own family. I have a treasured picture of my husband Jack, daughter Taylor and the Senator which was taken during his presidential campaign. Jack had the opportunity and privilege of working on the campaign. He saw first hand the Senators energy. He told me, “He never stopped, never. Even near the end of a long day, he moved faster than anyone around him, His energy was contagious. At the last Town Hall meeting he held in Salem, N.H. it had to be over 100 degrees inside. We were worried about him. Nothing to worry about. He went on and blew everyone away with his energy. His attitude was constantly positive and respectful. After all, how could it not be considering what he went through in his life.”
Senator McCain was an optimist but he was also realistic. After he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain tumor, he was fully understood the poor prognosis. He was well aware this was the same cancer that Senator Kennedy and Beau Biden (Senator Biden’s son) had so it was apparent what the eventual outcome would be. Ironically, my own dear brother Gary died of the same cancer in 2008. Unfortunately this is one of the cancers medical science has yet to conquer. It takes great strength to accept what one can not escape. In the year following his public acknowledgment of his illness, Senator McCain would openly reveal he felt he was the luckiest person alive. He lived life to the fullest.
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