John McCain’s Widow Cindy Speaks Out a Year After His Death: ‘You Learn to Live with a Broken Heart’
Editor’s note: In the year since Republican Sen. John McCain died after a grueling fight with glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer, his widow, Cindy, has mostly stayed out of the spotlight. But the memories of John — and all that he represented — continue to play a large role in her life. Each day, Cindy and his seven children (Douglas, Andrew and Sidney, from his first marriage, and Meghan, Jack, James and Bridget with Cindy) try to “remember him with joy, not sorrow,” Cindy says.
In a moving first-person piece for PEOPLE, excerpted below, Cindy reflects on her husband’s unforgettable place in their hearts. For more, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
On Sunday a year will have passed since my husband’s death. Our heaviest grief has subsided, which I’m sure would have prompted John to wise crack, “It’s about time.” He could never stand still, and he didn’t want us to languish in our loss. Neither did he want us to mark the anniversary of his passing with solemn commemorations and tears, but to celebrate the life we shared with him.
It was a struggle at times to reach this point. I was so accustomed to sharing life with John, there were days when I felt overwhelmed by his absence, and the habits and little problems of ordinary life seemed a challenge. But you learn it’s okay to not be okay every day. You learn to live with a broken heart, and the bad days become fewer, and the time in between richer and more meaningful.
Being a mom helped. My children are adults, but they were hurting too, and being a trusted counselor and supportive presence to them is the most fulfilling purpose I have. Best of all, I’m expecting a new grandson, a cause for tears of joy not sorrow. [Jack and his wife, Holly, are expecting their first child.]
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David Hume Kennerly/Getty
I moved back to the neighborhood where I grew up, where John and I began our married life and where we raised our children. I feel comforted there by the lifetime of happy memories and nurtured by the familiar sights and rhythms of the neighborhood.
Finally, I assumed the chairmanship of the McCain Institute’s Board of Trustees, a big, humbling job that keeps me busy helping make sure that the most important parts of my husband’s legacy and work live on.
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Things are getting better, as he promised us they would before he left us. We still miss his dynamism, his humor, the adventures we shared, the fun we had together. We miss his fighting spirit, especially when it served the causes he cared about most — respect for the dignity of all people and the political values that best protect it: liberty and justice for all.
John was never happier, never more satisfied, never more sure of himself than when he was helping the good guys fight the bad guys to help the little guys.
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