If Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) were to die tomorrow, his legacy as a patriot, hero and maverick would be secure, but I don’t think history is done with him yet. I think his finest hours may lie ahead.

Every now and then in Washington, something happens that temporarily shakes the body politic out of its cynical torpor: the death of a president; a terrorist attack; the mass shooting of children. And now the terrible news that McCain has the same form of aggressive brain cancer that felled Ted Kennedy may have a similar impact. It may awaken our leaders to a new sense of what’s important, what’s possible, what’s required of them.

McCain’s potential death sentence may have given him new life to write a final chapter in his life. Already beloved by many of his colleagues, revered by the press and respected by the public, McCain’s voice can ring louder and clearer than ever. He can summon Congress to work together to pass a bipartisan health-care bill and to engage in job-creating tax reform. He could even consider resuming his leadership on immigration reform and global warming that waned in recent years. He would be the center of attention and affection, and he has a rare opportunity to make what could be his last days count.

Finally, can one think of a starker contrast to Donald Trump’s narcissistic laziness than John McCain’s selfless heroism? Just by living, McCain reminds Americans of what a leader can do and be, and that they don’t have to settle for the low standards set by our current president.

McCain is almost free, free from a life of expectations, the burdens of torture and also much joy. But he will not go quietly. Once again, he will lead by example and show us the way it can be done.