CASTINE (NEWS CENTER Maine) -- When we went to Castine in July to interview Mark Salter, it was evident that time was running out for Senator John McCain, his friend, mentor and longtime employer. There would be no sudden turnaround in McCain’s year-long battle with brain cancer; no happy ending crafted by a Hollywood screenwriter.

Salter was thoughtful and reflective as he weighed McCain’s flaws and virtues, the latter of which, he believed, far outweighed the former. “He’s just got this outsized personality and this great enthusiasm for life, for everything he encounters,” Salter told me. “He never stays in one spot for long. He shakes off the bad and runs toward the good, and the next experience he’s sure will be better than the last one.” He paused for a moment and added, “It’s not a bad way to live.”

Salter helped McCain write all seven of his books and every one of them carried the message that animated McCain’s life: the importance of serving a cause greater than oneself. “I had the great good fortune to spend sixty years in the employ of our country, defending our country’s security, advancing our contributions to the progress of humanity,” McCain wrote in his final book, “The Restless Wave.” “It has not been perfect service, to be sure, and there were times when the country might have benefited from a little less of my help. But I’ve tried to deserve the privilege… and I am so very grateful.”

Millions of words will be written and spoken in tribute to John McCain, but no sentiment may capture him better than one from a funeral oration in Greece more than two thousand years ago. McCain placed the quotation at the beginning of one of his books: “Fix your eyes on the greatness of Athens as you have it before you day by day, all in love with her, and when you feel her great, remember that this greatness was won by men with courage, with knowledge of their duty, and with a sense of honor in action.”