I met John McCain on only one occasion – at my sister Maureen’s memorial service. She died in 2001 and her husband put together an impressive service for her, with several political figures attending, Senator McCain being one of them. I found myself standing alone with him, making small talk at first, but then I decided to make the most of a meeting that may never happen again. At that time, there was talk of opening the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and it was gaining traction. John Kerry had made some very strong statements against it, pledging to never allow such a thing to pass the Senate. I brought it up to Senator McCain, and he  looked me straight in the eye and said, “He’s right. We’re not going to let that happen.” As we were being led inside to the service, he gave my arm a strong pat and said, “Don’t you worry.” I didn’t care what political party he was in; I cared that he was direct and down to earth. He was a man you believed.

I had one other conversation with him, years later. It was a phone conversation about another issue, although this one had to do with something that was about to happen in Arizona. Some of the wild burros that roam freely in parts of Arizona were going to be slaughtered, and many environmental and animal rights groups were protesting this. I asked my mother if she would give me a phone number for Senator McCain. She did, and when I called, he picked up the phone himself. I was a little startled at hearing a gruff, “Hello,” since I expected an assistant to pick up the phone, but undaunted I told him my reason for calling and pleaded with him to intervene and not allow these animals to be killed. He said he would look into it, and I believed him. Moments after we hung up, my mother called me, nearly hysterical that she had given me his home number instead of his office. I assured her he was very nice and didn’t seem to mind, but she insisted she was going to call him and apologize, that this was such a blunder on her part she was completely mortified. I never heard any follow-up to that particular drama, so I’m guessing he told her to calm down. I also never found out if Senator McCain intervened to save the marked animals, but the burros were not slaughtered.

Obviously, many people had more interaction with John McCain than I did. But those two occasions are indelible in my memory. Some individuals are like that – a few moments with them are seared into your memory and make a difference in your life.

Much has been said about John McCain’s courage. He lived a life of bravery that most of us know we couldn’t equal. It takes courage, too, to face Death with dignity and acceptance. It was clear to the world that Senator McCain had no problem looking Death in the eye and saying, Whenever you’re ready, I am too. Courage is sadly lacking these days, particularly in the halls of government. Perhaps in the wake of John McCain’s death, the men and women entrusted with protecting America’s future might find time to ruminate on what courage means. Especially his good friend Lindsey Graham, who has apparently decided that playing golf with a wanna-be demagogue is more important than protecting our democracy.

The McCain family will now go through the strange experience of grieving in full view of the world. It’s something only a handful of us have experienced, and it is both surreal and comforting – as if millions of arms are wrapped around you. In the end, they will have him in their hearts, a man who believed that Life is a vast field where you leave footprints and memories, and a voice that will linger on the wind for generations to come.





8 Responses to JOHN McCAIN

  1. Mary Katherine Aldin says:

    I disagreed with Senator McCain on many issues, but always respected his integrity.

  2. Karin Burnap Costa says:

    Excellent, Patti.

  3. Michael Baron says:

    This is brilliantly and beautifully written!

  4. David Marks says:

    I find myself constantly repeating the one remarkable characteristic and poignant art to your writing, the brush stroke that makes your writing both authentic and resounding. You have an unequaled intimacy to your use of words, and then, to the painting you place to the canvas of your pages. I had an initial sense that no matter what you decided to choose to focus on here, it would surely be uniquely close to the beating heart, making the heart now still, come to life, and I was right, Patti. You measured a great man human, a human whose very existence was pledged on doing whatever was right, no matter the cause, without any pomp, without any ceremony or protocol. You invited us into a brief, but ignited few moments of interaction between minds with like interests, and warm honesty, and from what I’ve read thus far, you are the only one who has been able to convey such depth of humanity. Thank you, Patti. You presented John McCain in his most human fashion, you gave us a glimpse from the hero to the warmth and genuine manhood of this maverick of a man, without excuses, without embellishment, without embroidery. Thank you, again, and again, Patti.

  5. Your remarks about John McCain bring him to life as a person who was humane and eager to right inhumane acts. We know he was heroic, not just as a man fighting on behalf of America, but remarkably, as you expressed, in the confronting of his recent death. There is much to respect about him, whether his politics were aligned with mine, or were not, as was often the case. He was, nevertheless, a human being worthy of admiration. We need other examples of this, as we face unspeakable acts of hatred, indifference, and cowardice from our current administration and too many politicians. Thanks for the beautiful piece, Patti.

  6. Michael Sherwood says:

    Thank you for sharing these memories,Patti.

  7. Ken W. Brown says:

    Thank you Patti for sharing insights, and personal experiences. It means so much.
    May I suggest that if you want more insight into the man’s values, love of our democracy and his Valor read or in my case re-read “Faith of Our Fathers”.

  8. Erika Griesemer says:

    Very well written. I wish I had the opportunity to meet Sen.McCain he was one of my heroes. Like everything else in my life, meeting anyone is everyone is so close yet so far away.

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