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Glioblastoma. That is the name of the malignant tumor that took the life of one of our greatest citizens, Senator John McCain. All Americans mourn his passing, and we all pray for progress in battling this disease that also took the life of Senator Edward Kennedy, and the son of Vice President Joe Biden. It is, you see, a non-partisan disease. It attacks both Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and progressives, the young and the old. And it is a reminder of what ultimately unites us all: our mortality. Sooner or later we leave the stage or the Congress or the field of battle, and the only question is whether we left it a better place.

There is an ancient story about a terrified servant who, in a state of hysteria, borrowed a camel from his Master after meeting death in the village. He told his Master that he was fleeing to Samara. The next day the Master met death in the village and asked him why he had scared his servant, and death replied: “I was just so surprised to see him here because I have an appointment with him tonight in Samara.”

One of the sacred duties of the preacher is to remind us of our mortality, because mortality is the great common denominator that encourages us to see clearly and to choose wisely. John McCain met and lived with death as a young man, and it gave him a greater perspective and a more courageous spirit. He was a flawed human being, as are we all, but he had seen enough of life and death to rise above the petty partisanship that is destroying our country. His legendary friendship with Ted Kennedy remains a model of how to fight passionately for your principles while still embracing the humanity and friendship of your foes.

McCain always seemed to be on a mission. He was on a mission when he got shot down in Vietnam. On a mission to survive prison and torture. On a mission to help his country live up to its highest ideals. He simply didn’t have time for pettiness, and in those moments when he stooped to it, he regretted it and confessed it. He understood that what unites us is greater than that which divides us; that being a Republican or Democrat is small potatoes compared to being an American; that crossing the aisle is sometimes the act of a patriot.

Rev. Don Underwood