26 August 2018

Notes from Norm: John McCain

Death will take us all. 

Even the bravest and stoutest of each of us. 

So, too, did it take John McCain. 

John McCain was my friend.  A colleague.  Someone I looked up to as a Senator.  

Someone I admired as a person.  

While I would never suggest we were the closest of friends, he was kind, thoughtful and helpful to me. 

He had a tough persona, but he had a gentleness about him that those fortunate enough to get past the prickly veneer would find to be a gift we will never forget. 

He has been a mentor to the next generation of America’s leaders –Senators Lindsey Graham,  Kelly Ayotte, Dan Sullivan, and names we have yet to learn. 

I am, like the millions of others in America, and around the world, whose lives have been touched by the meaningful way in which he lived, and in the prideful and dignified way he died. 

There will be multitudes of adulation and remembrances and memories told of a man who was, throughout his life; a hero, a villain, a mentor, a statesman, a bully, a father, a husband and, perhaps as he will be best thought of, a patriot. 

John McCain did not go gently into the good night.  He raged all the way until it came.   

Cancer may have taken his life, but it did not take his essence. 

John McCain, the survivor of a POW camp where, given the choice to earn his liberty if he would only sell his soul took the option that imprisoned his body but freed his spirit. 

A metaphor, perhaps, of a life in which his spirit soared even when his body brought him to ground. 

There was in the spirit of John McCain the resolute determination to get it right even if along the way he sometimes got it wrong. 

My own recollections of John McCain are those of a Senator who didn’t need to impress or convince anyone of his motives or his purpose in this life.  It was simply to find a way to a center in which those on either side of it could come together as Americans. 

For more decades than most Americans can recall John McCain has been at the center of trying to pull together a nation that too often seems determined to pull itself apart. 

In doing so he did not give up his beliefs or his passion for what he believed was right or wrong. 

A man who refused to compromise to save his own life, John McCain never feared compromise if he felt it would improve an American’s life. 

John McCain has warned us that in a nation where men and women seek public office promising to do nothing or to work with anybody we have become the greatest threat to ourselves and our own freedom. 

Our enemies, of which there are many, have found an ally in our potential demise.  It is not from without our borders it is from within if we fail to understand that. 

We have become, too often of late, a nation of different sides rather than a nation of being on the same side. 

McCain himself saw this, and the role he played in it, when he spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate last year: 

“Both sides have let this happen. Let’s leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they’ll find we all conspired in our decline – either by deliberate actions or neglect. We’ve all played some role in it. Certainly I have. Sometimes, I’ve let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes, I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes, I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy.” 

I don’t intend to deify John McCain as something more than what he was in life in his death. 

Or less. 

John McCain represents, to me, all that is good and great and flawed and imperfectly perfect about America. 

He chose to live as a free American, whether in a POW camp or imprisoned in a broken and battered body or tortured and tormented by cancer. 

In my own battle against cancer I am well aware that it takes too much – too often – and too many. 

John McCain’s battle with cancer, as much as the battle that any of us with cancer wage every single day, is a reminder of the precious gift of life God has given us. 

And, our obligation to make the most of each and every single day. 

In John McCain’s eyes burned intensity; but, so, too did they reflect wisdom and courage and compassion and conviction.  

John McCain returned home to fight his last battle.  He waged it in his own way.   

He fought it with courage.  Dignity.  Determination.   

And, when the time came for him to go it was his decision when and when.   

Surrounded by those who loved him the most John McCain reminded us that free men and women do not often get to choose how or where we die.  

But, he reminded us throughout his life that free men and women do get to choose how we live.