Senator John McCain died Saturday at the age of 81. He had been battling brain cancer for over a year and decided just yesterday to discontinue treatment. By his side when he passed was his family, including his wife of 38 years, Cindy McCain, who took to Twitter soon after news of his death broke to express her grief.
“My heart is broken. I am so lucky to have lived the adventure of loving this incredible man for 38 years. He passed the way he lived, on his own terms, surrounded by the people he loved, in the place he loved best.”
Responses were almost entirely supportive expressions of condolence.
Cindy McCain spoke to People last year about her “hero” soon after he revealed his brain cancer diagnosis to the world. While theirs was a true and great love, it had a less-than-ideal start as John McCain was still married to Carol Shepp when he met Cindy Lou Hensley. He described the first time they met as “love at first sight.” She was 25-years-old, and he was 43, with three children; 51-year-old Sidney McCain, and Carol’s two sons from a previous marriage: 58-year-old Douglas McCain and 56-year-old Andrew McCain. Cindy said that she overstated her age when she met him, and he understated his age out of fear that they may scare each other off if their real ages were revealed.
He and Carol were going through some difficult times in their marriage, and he soon filed for divorce. He married Cindy on May 17, 1980. They have four children together, Meghan, 32-year-old John Sidney McCain IV, 30-year-old James McCain, and 26-year-old Bridget McCain, who they adopted from Bangladesh when she was 3-years-old.
Cindy shared that they each learned the true age of the other in the newspaper.
“In Arizona when you apply for a marriage license, it’s published in the newspaper. Of course when they published the application, we both found out together our true ages. It didn’t matter anyway. I felt like he wouldn’t be interested in someone as young as me – and he felt I wouldn’t be interested in someone that was older, like he was. So it was for true love that we did it. And it’s been a funny joke for our kids ever since.”
When John decided to leave his Navy career to go into politics, they made a decision that Cindy would stay in Arizona with their children where they felt they could have a “well-rounded life.” John would come home on the weekends and holidays.
Although the McCains were never very affectionate in public, friends described them as “sweet and tender” in private in a way that reflected the strong bond they shared. A kindness that she showed her husband regularly was to comb his hair for him because injuries from the war left him unable to lift his arms high enough to do it himself.
John McCain helped his wife through the difficult experience of an addiction to painkillers that she hid from him. She said later that she hid it from him because she was afraid he would be disappointed in her. Instead, he offered his full support and hurried home as soon as he learned of her addiction. His words to her at that time reveal the commitment the two had to each other.
“He sat down next to me and said, ‘You should come to me first with whatever it is — I love you, I’m here for you, I will get through this with you.’ And he did.”