Jacquelyn Martin/AP
August 29, 2018 01:50 PM

In July, while planning his funeral, Sen. John McCain specifically asked that a beloved Irish ballad, “Danny Boy,” be sung during services, a longtime family friend and associate tells PEOPLE.

“It was absolutely one of his favorite songs,” says Carla Eudy, a fundraiser who has worked with and been friends with the McCain family for decades. “He wanted it sung at his funeral.”

The deeply poignant song references a dying father addressing his son who has gone to war. In the song, the father knows that his son will return to find his father dead and buried. The father says he will hear his son treading atop the grave.

For you will bend and tell me that you love me,
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me!

“I can hardly talk about it let alone listen to it,” says an emotional Eudy, speaking to PEOPLE from an Uber in Phoenix while on her way to the first of many services for McCain, who died of brain cancer at 81 on Saturday.

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The prominent Arizona senator was very involved with planning his funeral, says Eudy, who will be among the pallbearers for the main service at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

“I saw him last July, and we have been working on what the services would be,” Eudy says. “He wanted to make sure that the final time that was going to honor his passing would have only things he wanted.”

Those things included another song, “Faith of Our Fathers,” which is also the title of the memoir McCain wrote with coauthor Mark Salter.

While riding in her Uber, Eudy observes that Arizona Interstate roadsigns are lit up with a message for the day:

“Country First, RIP Senator McCain.”

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