Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Good Exit

by Pa Rock

Tim Russert died yesterday. The NBC newsman was fifty-eight, two years younger than me. Any time death comes to someone younger than me, it sets me ruminating on the meaning of life and the importance of recognizing happiness when it is swirling all around.

NBC and MSNBC are the outlets where I get all of my television news (well, 90% - BBC also enters into the mix), and Russert's presence, especially during this election year, was downright ubiquitous. When my radio news outlet, PBS, told me yesterday that Russert had died, I felt a very real loss.

NBC Nightly News last night was a wall-to-wall tribute to Tim Russert, with no other news even being mentioned. MSNBC also dedicated the entire evening to remembrances of him. They talked about his wife and son (Maureen and Luke), and his father - Big Russ of Tim's best selling book, Big Russ and Me. Tom Brokaw told of Russert putting Big Russ in an assisted living home just nine days prior, and the emotional impact that had on Tim. There was video of the flags in Tim's hometown of Buffalo, New York, flying at half-staff. They aired condolence statements from political formidables like President Bush, Barack Obama, John McCain, and even Ethel Kennedy.

There were three things that stood out about Tim Russert in all of the stirring remembrances: his love of family, his unwavering Catholic faith, and his love of politics. His last days, it seems, were a beautiful conflux of all three. Tim's son, Luke, had just graduated from Boston College and his parents took him on a trip to Ireland and Italy as a graduation gift. While in Rome, two days prior to Russert's death, they had an audience with the Pope. Russert left his family in Rome and rushed back to the United States to prepare for Sunday's broadcast of Meet the Press. He was working on voice-overs for the Sunday show when he collapsed in his office. Several speakers remarked that Russert's love of politics was so intense, that he often said to co-workers, "Can you believe they're paying us to do this!"

Tim Russert was a busy and happy man when he died. I can only hope that is the way that death will find me.

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