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Leading Through Advance Planning August 30, 2018

Senator John McCain

Senator John McCain was someone who often led by example.

A Navy pilot shot down during the war in Viet Nam, he refused an early release from a Vietnamese POW camp opting instead to remain with his fellow captives – until they also were released, this despite the depravity of being brutally tortured.

In his long political career, he was a so-called “maverick” but continued to flash qualities of leadership.  In 2008 in the midst of his presidential run, he defended his political rival at a campaign rally when a confused supporter maliciously referred to Barrack Obama as an Arab.  And, at the conclusion of that same campaign, McCain graciously conceded defeat while acknowledging the historical significance of the election of America’s first African American president.  His last act of leadership came during his final days when he penned a dignified, statesmanlike letter urging us to “believe always in the promise and greatness of America.”

These acts were well-known to the public.  But we’ve learned that he did something else privately that has only been revealed upon his death: in a final gesture of leadership, McCain planned his own funeral.  According to People Magazine, he chose where the memorial services were to be held, selected his burial site and even requested the singing of “Danny Boy” during the services. In the whole scheme of things, perhaps McCain’s private participation in the planning of his funeral pales in comparison to his public life on the national and world stages.  But it does serve as a reminder of our own mortality and the responsibility we have in taking the lead in considering and planning for our own ending – rather than leaving planning and what can be agonizing details to those we love and leave behind.

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