Funeral plans include reflection by Jesuit priest
What motivated Sen. John S. McCain to serve his country in the military and in government is what gave him confidence at the end of his life that America would survive whatever crises come its way.
“We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil,” McCain said in a final statement, which was released after his death at the age of 81 on Saturday. “We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have acquired great wealth and power in the process.”
McCain died at his home in Cornville, Arizona, after a 13-month battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. He will lie in state in the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix on Wednesday, August 29 (what would have been his 82nd birthday), followed by a service at North Phoenix Baptist Church on Thursday. McCain was Episcopalian but his family has been part of the congregation for more than 25 years.
Senior Pastor Noe Garcia will give the welcome, invocation, benediction and dismissal. Jesuit Father Edward Reese, former president of Brophy Preparatory, where McCain’s sons attended, also will speak.
McCain’s body will travel to Washington to lie in state in the rotunda of the United States Capitol on Friday. On Saturday, McCain’s body will be carried with ceremony from the U.S. Capitol by Armed Forces Body Bearers, secured and moved by motorcade to Washington National Cathedral. The motorcade will pause at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial where McCain’s widow, Cindy McCain, will lay a ceremonial wreath honoring all whose lives were lost during the Vietnam War.
The entourage then will process to Washington’s National Cathedral for a 10:00 memorial service. McCain’s family, friends, congressional colleagues and staff, as well as U.S. and international leaders have been invited to attend and participate in the service.
McCain will be buried at the United States Naval Academy Cemetery, next to his Naval Academy classmate and lifelong friend Admiral Charles R. Larson. Prior to his death, McCain requested that former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the men who defeated him in his first and second presidential campaigns, respectively, deliver eulogies at his funeral.
“Thank you for the privilege of serving you and for the rewarding life that service in uniform and in public office has allowed me to lead. I have tried to serve our country honorably. I have made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them,” said McCain’s statement, read on Monday in Phoenix by his former campaign manager, Rick Davis.
In the statement, McCain said he had led a full and satisfying life, which he attributed firstly to “the love of my family,” and secondly to his nation.
“To be connected to America’s causes—liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people—brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures,” he said. “Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.
He said that using the phrase “Fellow Americans” in addressing constituents “has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American.”
But he warned against confusing patriotism with “tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.
“We are 325 million opinionated, vociferous individuals,” he continued. “We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do.”
He called it a “privilege” to concede defeat in the 2008 presidential election, which he lost against President Barack H. Obama, the first African-American to be elected to the nation’s highest office.
In his concession speech Nov. 4, 2008, McCain acknowledged the historic significance of the election. “And I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight,” he said.
This week, he said he wanted to “end my farewell to you with the heartfelt faith in Americans that I felt so powerfully” the evening of Nov. 4, 2008. “I feel it powerfully still.
“Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history,” McCain concluded. “Farewell, fellow Americans. God bless you, and God bless America.”
The Bishops of the Arizona Catholic Conference, in a statement, called McCain “an American hero who served his country with the utmost admiration in both the Navy and the U.S. Senate.”
As a Navy pilot serving in Vietnam, McCain spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war at Hoa Lo, known as the “Hanoi Hilton,” where he underwent torture. Because his father was a high-ranking officer in the Navy, he was offered a preferential release, but he turned it down until his fellow prisoners of war could also go home.
“He clearly was a man of extreme courage and of loyalty to the United States of America,” fellow POW Joe Crecca told CNN. “To his family, to his God, and to his country.”
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