Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Life Well Lived

Like most anyone else who follows politics at all, I was/am familiar with the name Tim Russert. I know he's been the host of Meet The Press as well as the Washington Bureau chief for NBC News for over a decade and a half & I've seen how he can make the most experienced politician squirm when he/she isn't being fully forthcoming or is trying to backtrack on statements they wish they hadn't made or is trying to change the subject.

I also had watched MTP so often that I knew that he loved his hometown, Buffalo, NY: he was a big Buffalo Bills fan, and a dedicated Irish Catholic who loved his faith. I know that, before he began his career in journalism, he worked for legendary Democratic senator Daniel Moynihan & the former Democratic New York governor Mario Cuomo. I know he also loved his father dearly and that he wrote a book about him, but what I didn't know (til this weekend) was how very much he was loved & respected!

Starting with Keith Olbermann on this past Friday afternoon up until this morning's telecast of MTP with Tim's chair empty, I've heard so much about not just the great journalist he was, but more often & most importantly, how great a friend & person he was. I heard not just his co-workers but his competitors (Bob Schieffer of CBS's Face The Nation & George Stephanopolous of ABC's This Week) talk about how thoughtful & how kind & how simply nice he was. There must have been a hundred people I've heard during the course of this weekend talk about Tim Russert. Without exception, they all spoke of their great admiration for the man first & the journalist second. You could also see how difficult it has been for each of them to find the right words to describe how they felt about their friend. Almost all their voices cracked with emotion talking about their fond remembrances of their colleague. I even saw the hard-nosed Republican operative & Dick Cheney employee, Mary Matalin, wiping away tears. I wasn't sure til then that she even possessed the ability to cry (jk). From the President of the United States to everyday folks invited to leave their thoughts about Tim on NBC's website, people have spoken & written about how much they will miss this man, who, at 58 years of age, left his family and his obvious many fans much too soon. Even the politicians called him tough but fair & not one of those "gotcha" types.

I write about this because it makes me wonder if Tim knew, while he was still here, how all these people felt about him. I wonder if these people took the time to stop & tell Tim Russert exactly how much he meant to them. If I had to guess, I'd say he knew. I can't imagine someone so apparently loved & so admired didn't know how blessed & how loved he was. Tim's friends & co-workers have been so eloquent about how they felt about him that they must have had lots of practice at least thinking about how important he was to them. The words seem to have come so easily to them, even though their hearts have been completely broken. I would wager that anyone who's seen the coverage on MSNBC has wondered, as I have, how these people will continue their lives without him. Much as they may not relish the idea, they will go on, of course, because that's just how life works. I'd also wager that that's how Tim would have wanted it, too. Being the devout Catholic he was, I'm sure he was pretty sure of what was awaiting him after this life, and I'm sure he knows that those he left behind know that he's happy where he is now; he's home, and the burden now is on those who loved him & cared for him so much. I think that they are the ones for whom the rest of us should feel the sorrow. Tim Russert's passing must represent such a loss & such a hole in their lives, and,the sad truth is, some voids just can't ever be filled. There is an emptiness by necessity, even if it's only as a reminder of the blessing he was to all those who knew him. If you think about it, those memories we all create in our lives & the lives of those we touch are the permanent part of us impermanent creatures.

As I have been watching the remembrances & the tributes to Tim Russert, I can't help but wonder if I let my friends & my family know how much they mean to me: how blessed I am that they share my life with they decorate my life. I don't think that I could ever really communicate to those wonderful people in my life all they have given to me. I just don't think I have the words...which is saying something for someone like me who usually doesn't know when to stop talking.

I hope each of us has somehow--in some way--let those special folks in our lives know the difference they make. Even if you don't get a chance to hug them or write a beautifully-worded letter or email, I hope we each get a chance to somehow communicate what we probably each carry around in our hearts every day & maybe even unintentionally take for granted. We are only human after all.

Even though Tim Russert's family, friends & co-workers have said so much about Tim these past few days, from what I've seen & heard, I'm positive that none of them had to utter the words that I pray none of the rest of us will have to say one day either: "I wish I had told him/her what he/she meant to me while he/she was still here...".