McCain’s Final Farewell
by Barbara Casey
I listened to Meghan McCain’s eulogy for her father on my drive over to visit dad today. I cried the entire way. What an incredible eulogy! It got me thinking how determined John McCain was, both in how he chose to live his life after enduring such tragedy in the Vietnam War and later. He could have come home from his POW experience and had it eat him up inside with anger and revenge, but instead, he channeled his experience towards making the world a better place for all of us. Now, I don’t agree with everything McCain stood for but I definitely came to appreciate his forthrightness and his ability to acknowledge when he was wrong. I, like the Senator, stand up when I see something wrong and do not worry about what others think. I am, like McCain, a direct communicator. I am proud of that as much as I am frustrated by it when others do not communicate with me as directly as I would like them to.
Furthermore, Senator McCain was also smart in how he chose to and was able to live out his last remaining days. He was fortunate because he got advance notice that his days were ending so he could choose how he wanted to live them. My mother was not so lucky, succumbing to a heart attack in her sleep at the young age of 57. The Senator was able to spend time with all who meant something to him so that he could communicate his love for them as well as how he wished to be remembered. He could communicate his wish for how he envisioned his funeral. He could communicate a strong call to arms for the nation to stand up to fascism and tribalism that is enveloping his beloved nation. In short, he could communicate to those he felt he needed to.
Communication is so integral to our identity and self-worth. What happens when you can no longer communicate, as my dad has? Since his fall in May of 2015, his ability to express himself has deteriorated to the point where now he cannot express himself at all, but I do not believe he understands what I say either. How must that feel to him? He is alive, his body is still working, but he is trapped inside his own skin, unable to ask for help, unable to thank anyone for the little comforts they provide him throughout the day, unable to say he loves me or anyone else. I believe he still knows who I am because when I arrive, I still see that twinkle in his eye. When I leave, sometimes I get a kiss goodbye. But in between, I get nothing. I think about the McCain family and how they got to say goodbye to John, and how John got to say goodbye to them. It was a full circle moment and as sad as I am sure it was, I have to think the family was at peace. Being able to communicate with each other is so central. To have that stolen from you is no different than solitary confinement, only you are relegated to confinement inside your own body. Senator McCain – how blessed you and your family were for the gift you gave them, at the end. May you rest in peace.
My name is Barbara Casey and, while I am the youngest of three children, I was deemed the caregiver for my 90-year-old father. I relocated him to Pennsylvania to be closer to me in August of 2015 and immediately started writing a blog to chronicle my experience and to help others avoid some of my stumbles along the way. I hope through my words you can find support, learn from my mistakes, maybe laugh a bit at the absurdity of it all, and realize that there are others out there walking the same path. After all, there is safety in numbers.