An Open Letter to Meghan McCain

Dear Meghan,

I want to offer my most sincere, deep condolences for the loss of your father. The image of you weeping over his flag draped casket, a daughter saying her final goodbye to a father she so greatly loved, tore my heart.

Like your father my dad was a war veteran, and a bronze star recipient who served in the European Theater during WWII. Like you, my father was my personal hero.

My father was a task master and disciplinarian, as I suspect was yours. He was a diplomat, a union negotiator, a man who could bring people together across the table. He had a temper that could flare at a moment’s notice. He was an imperfect man, as we all fall short of that impossible standard, but he was a good man, a good husband, a good father.

With my mother, a remarkable woman in her own right, my father raised four children — two sons and two daughters. I have often pondered, being raised through two decades when the women’s movement was just beginning to open the doors of opportunity for our gender, how lucky I was that my father embraced equality for his daughters. It never occurred to me, for even a moment, that I could not or would not achieve anything I put my mind, heart, and soul to — I could because of my father’s belief and encouragement, I would because he set a standard that would allow no less.

I am the baby of the family; time has a way of mellowing parents, of softening their sharp edges. My siblings would be the first to tell you that I reaped that benefit. I admit that I’m glad of it. As a teen and then young woman, I had more of my father’s time and attention than my sister or brothers had, It influenced me greatly.

My parents passed away just months apart from one another; after 64 years together, they couldn’t bear to be apart even in death. With my mother’s passing I lost a kindred spirit, the woman who shared her body with me to give me life, who taught me the joys and sorrows of being a woman.

When my father left me, I lost the one man I knew I could always count on in this world, the one man in this life who would always love me, support me, and protect me unequivocally, the one man I owed everything, but who never expected anything in return. He was my rock, my shelter, and my strength. Despite being grown, middle-aged with children of my own, my world became a much scarier place without my father.

Our world today is now a much scarier place without your father, a man who dedicated his life to making the U.S. safe, as a solider, a hero, and a statesman. He was a great man because of his honor. So, along with my heartfelt sympathy, I want to thank you, Meghan, thank your mother, and all of your brother’s and sisters, for sharing this great man with us.

The grief you feel over the loss of your father will never lessen, but in time it will overwhelm you less and less. There will come brief moments when you feel almost normal again. Those moments will increase to hours, days, months, and at some distant point in the future thoughts of your father will bring you more joy than sorrow. Yet still, there will be those times, those reminders, that ignite your sorrow and it will burn as deeply and painfully as it does today. I hope you will find your solace in also remembering the outpouring of sympathy and love our nation shares with you.

Your life is different now without your father, but you will go on to great things because of him. Every thing you do from this point forward, you will ask yourself what your father would have wanted, what he would have encouraged, what he would have hoped for. In this way, your father will never leave your side. That will be your peace, that will be your sword and shield, that will be your shelter and your home. There is no greater gift a father can give his daughter.