Why am I so moved by John McCain’s death and memorial service?

I’m not a Republican, from Arizona, and I didn’t follow his career that closely, so why was I so moved by John McCain’s death and the commentary on his life and death?  And does it matter? The second question is a no brainer for this girl. Of course it matters. Anything that stirs us deeply or moves us to tears matters. These are cues and signals … sacred invitations. Things that stir us inside to joy or sadness, grieving or giving, wondering or wandering from what was just holding our attention to something entirely different are indicators of deep yearnings, longings, or desires. These are things of the spirit or soul gently requesting our attention. And they are worth our attention for they are our teachers, guides, messengers of a higher power for those who claim one, opportunities to enter “thin places” some would say. 

So yeah, I’m just glad I didn’t miss my internal and external movements and reactions to John McCain’s passing. I’m glad I was mindful enough so I could get to those questions. I’m grateful I didn’t just shrug it off, shutting-the door on the possibility of an interior discovery that just might carry me to a richer way of knowing myself, the world, or better yet, living in it. There were clearly particular images and phrases that moved me. Parts of John McCain, no matter the depth of their truth that struck a nerve with my own longings and right now. There was the way he might have gotten out of his torture chamber during Vietnam early on, yet refused to go till all would be released. There is the way the mystery of his suffering seemed to deepen his capacity for compassion, his commitment to fight for humans everywhere suffering. There was the way he was – yes – a maverick, seeming to not always “tow the party line” but give us glimpses of someone thinking beyond or larger than that. The way he seemed to at least give us glimpses of a time when people worked “across the aisle” because of a commitment to something greater than themselves. There was the way McCain demonstrated his commitment to a set of morals and beliefs (or at least a set of boundaries or limits to how far he would stray from them)  that meant he would need to defend Obama to a supporter of his who wanted to wrongly demean his opponent no matter what it might cost John. There was the way McCain demonstrated in word and deed, in life and particularly as he prepared to die, a willingness to look at and name, confess, apologize for and move forward with his imperfections and short-comings. There was such a basic honesty and humanity, dignity and sense of character in that. McCain just seemed to stand for several things larger and far beyond our differences – things far more important than our differences –  that I could connect with. It seemed a place I could meet him, and perhaps all humanity. Whether you are a Republican military man from Arizona, or a more progressive Independent who struggles with the military (coming from a faith tradition deeply committed to peace and non-violence), John’s life and death just seemed to shout most of all that there is a humanity we can hold in common that values relationship over right or “winning” and having best friends who reside across all kinds of “party lines”. A humanity that holds an unwavering commitment to treat each person with dignity and respect no matter the depth of our disagreements or what we see modeled around us trying to seduce us. There is a way I do believe that with his dying as much as his living, John McCain was both showing us how and calling us to live and die with honor and for something greater than ourselves, something worthy, despite all the myriad of details that could separate us. 

I wonder if McCain didn’t so yearn or long for a healthier, more faithful, life-giving time for our country, and really, the world in ways that led him then to show and share what he did particularly the last weeks of life. His longings and yearnings, desires and life commitments to something greater than himself carrying him, like any of us, into something beyond us we just have to acknowledge whenever we are deeply longing and listening. Perhaps that’s ultimately “it” between John McCain and me in the end. Some of his living and dying simply served as holy portal to something bigger than either of us. The stirring and movement inside me simply the invitation to walk through. In my decision to explore vulnerability rather than deny it, I was able to touch and see, hear and feel again the reality that we really all can be one. Was reminded again we are all meant to be the many, yet one. We just have to be awake and open, willing to listen to our selves and others, trust and move toward one another to get there. 

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