It has been a week of sad TV viewing. I watched as much as I could of the memorial services at National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. for Sen. John McCain.
The spunky senator had time to come to terms with his terminal illness and planned his funeral. He took care of every detail and decided whom to invite and who would speak. He asked each of them personally.
I admired John McCain. He had that look of dogged determination in his eyes. I liked how he often crossed party lines, never mind how it would affect him personally or politically. He clearly followed the dictates of his conscience.
A lot has been written about his life and career in the service of the United States. I am most impressed by the story about the time he spent as a POW in the “Hanoi Hilton” during the Vietnam war. For five and a half years, he was humiliated, tortured and beaten within an inch of his life.
When McCain’s father, a navy admiral, was appointed commander of all US forces in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese offered him early release from prison. McCain refused to budge unless every man taken prisoner before him was also set free. When they refused, he was obstinate: “I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy”.
When he lost the presidential race to Barack Obama, his concession speech was gracious and genuinely patriotic.
“Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. These are difficult times for our country, and I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.
“I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in offering our next president our goodwill and earnest effort to find ways to come together, to find the necessary compromises, to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited. “
Tributes and tears
Facing death, McCain invited Obama, the man who thwarted his bid for the highest post in the land, to speak at his funeral.
Obama’s tribute was warm and eloquent. “So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. It’s a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that.
“That’s perhaps how we honor him best, by recognizing that there are some things bigger than party, or ambition, or money or fame or power; that there are some things that are worth risking everything for. Principles that are eternal. Truths that are abiding. “
I so want to put his words on bumper stickers or somewhere up in lights to awaken that same spirit in each of us.
Vice President Biden’s fond adieu was touching. Former President George W. Bush also spoke.
And then McCain’s daughter Meghan rose to speak. Between sobs, all the years of holding back, of having turned the other cheek, were put to rest. I am sure her father was proud.
I believe it is every parent’s wish to be remembered with love and respect. But why wait? Why not now while I can still feel and touch and love? Later is too late.
McCain’s widow, Cindy Hensley McCain, sat quietly beside their son. A fond smile lit up her sad face when Obama characterized her husband.
But when opera singer Renee Fleming’s voice filled the quiet Cathedral with her soulful “O Danny Boy,” the dam broke, finally. Mrs. McCain rested her head on her son’s shoulder. Quietly, she gave way to a grief she could no longer contain. It was heartbreaking.
The Clintons were there. I spotted Henry Kissinger. There were senators, representatives, Republicans, Democrats, liberals, and conservatives. President Trump’s daughter Ivanka and husband Jared Kushner were there. No one was there who was not invited.
The speeches were brief, the oratory subdued. Some described the speeches as veiled rebukes of the present leadership. But there was no bluster. The speakers were mindful of the time and the place.
If there was an undercurrent of strife, maybe it was inevitable.
Looking for material for “apo night,” I saw an offer for a copy of “How to Teach Students Dignity Respect and Compassion” by David Flood, a youth motivational speaker for the past 20 years. I researched the author and found a video of “Look On The Inside,” where he addresses a group of young people.
Let me share a part of it with the not-so-young.
“Your life is not about you. Your life is about all the people around you. Your life is about all the people you can touch, all the people you can impact, influence. Your life is all the people you love, all the people who love you.
“That’s how you source your life.
“Live your life like that and watch your life change. It is amazing what happens.”