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August 24, 2018 02:00 PM

Joe Lieberman served closely in the Senate for 24 years with John McCain, a deep friendship that’s continued through McCain’s fight with stage-four brain cancer

Following news Friday that McCain has ended treatment for his terminal cancer, Lieberman tells PEOPLE in an email:  “Becoming John McCain’s friend has been one of the great blessings of my life. Today I am praying for him and his family.”

During McCain’s year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, Lieberman has visited McCain a few times, and the pair speak each week on the phone. 

“John is facing this challenge to his life and health with the same fearlessness and realism that he’s faced every challenge to his life,” Lieberman told PEOPLE in October.

“He’s by no means giving in, I mean he’s fighting it,” Lieberman said. “This confrontation with his mortality is the most direct that he has had since he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam.” 

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“We’ve had some really inspiring discussions, not melancholy, but not irrationally happy,” Lieberman continued. “I would say the word is grateful. John looks back at the years he’s lived with gratitude and the opportunities he’s had.”

When asked what people don’t really know about McCain, Lieberman revealed he is an avid reader and huge fan of author Ernest Hemingway’s. “I can’t tell you how many times he’s read ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls,” Lieberman said.

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McCain also loves nature. “I’ve seen that when we’ve traveled around the world together, but I also see it at the special place he and Cindy have outside of Sedona called Hidden Valley, it’s a beautiful place,” Lieberman told PEOPLE.

“He will tell you how many different kinds of birds he’s seen there. I was there about a month or so ago and I spent a weekend. He has a patio in front of the house and he sits on it and there is a bird feeder there. That weekend, there was a succession of hummingbirds coming to the bird feeders and he got excited every time he saw one. Those are parts of him that people don’t know.”

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