Among all the things there are to admire about Senator John McCain’s 106-year old mother Roberta — her longevity, her wanderlust, her passion for education, the decades-long gin rummy game she maintained against her twin sister Rowena — this maternal wisdom she passed along to her son might be the best:
“She taught me to find so much pleasure in life that misfortune could not rob me of the joy of living,” he wrote in his book, Faith of My Fathers: A Family Memoir.
I love that quote and I will consider my own motherhood a rousing success if my four children can say the same.
Life can turn on a dime, or a steering wheel, a rip tide, or a rogue wave. Its terrible finality sometimes sucks our breath away, and, in our pain, we lose sight of the joy.
But, it’s there. It’s like the morning sun after a stormy summer night, or a baby’s giggle.
You have to keep your eyes, your ears and your heart open for the joy.
According to a delightful 2007 New York Times article, Roberta and her twin sister Rowena traveled all over the world together. Told, at age 93, that she was too old to rent a car in France, Roberta bought one.
Mostly, though, they traveled frugally, noting that they’d be happy with a bed (and sometimes even a corn cob mattress), hot water and a light.
“I don’t want to discover a hotel, I want to sleep in a hotel,” Roberta said in the article, which you should definitely read.
Roberta instilled that sense of wonder and wanderlust in her children, who gifted it to theirs.
Senator McCain took risks most people would not have to defend a country he loved. He left us with a legacy of honesty, integrity, bravery and sound debate. You didn’t have to agree with him to appreciate his passion, to admire his earnest efforts.
Here’s to him and the mother who survives him.
And, in their honor, here’s to the joy of living.