In my childhood the ultimate question was where were you when you heard President Kennedy was shot. Later it shifted to the Apollo 11 moon landing. In middle adulthood the query focused on the events of 9-11. For many of us today, the new watershed moment has become where were you when you heard the awful news about the passing of Rush Limbaugh?
I was coming out of a convenience store when I turned on the radio just after 11AM CST, hoping that Rush was back on the air. Instead, I heard the solemn voice of a woman(which turned out to be Rush's wife) in mid-sentence. I immediately recognized what had happened.
Just as with the passing of Ronald Reagan, I won't pretend I can offer tributes comparable to those who knew Rush Limbaugh best. All I can do is present some of own observations that may strike a note with you.
I first saw Rush's T.V show in 1993, while visiting an aunt and uncle living near San Diego. I noted that he was unique in combining humor with the discussion of serious political issues When the episode was over, my uncle enthusiastically stated that we could watch another episode if he tilted his monstrous satellite dish in another direction.
Despite that initiation, it wasn't until early in 2000 that I began to listen to the radio broadcast on a regular basis. It came at the behest of a lifelong friend, who told me he had listened to Limbaugh's program every day while attending law school. He said he got hooked because the program made so much sense. Soon I came to the same conclusion.
It could be argued that Rush indirectly launched my writing career. The first column I ever wrote was titled "Why we really criticize Rush Limbaugh." It was published on a now defunct website as a guest editorial. It dealt with the ghoulish phenomenon whereby some people cheer for the implosion of any popular figure that upholds a historically normative perspective on moral issues. The publishing of the piece inadvertently coincided with Mr. Limbaugh's release from a treatment facility, where he was admitted for opioid dependency. I came home from work that night to discover I had scores of responses to the piece, all of which I attempted to answer. The next day the editor notified me that I would be a regular columnist.
When President Reagan died, I visited a friend who was one of the last people who got to visit privately with him. A few months earlier he had given me the movie "Knute Rockne, All-American, " in which Ronald Reagan starred as legendary Notre Dame athlete George Gipp. I had a novel idea; if I couldn't write the best column, I could come up with the best title: "The Gipper won one for us." Not only was it a turn of a phrase, but it cleverly placed homonyms back-to-back in a sentence. I sent the piece to Rush's brother David. At the time we had exchanged E-mails, because we both had written columns critical of then, Wisconsin Senator, Russ Feingold, making similar observations. A few days later, on June 10th, 2004, Rush opened up his monologue with the words "The Gipper won one for us."
In the summer of 2001, I was asked to do the eulogy for a life-long friend. I was trying to condense my presentation to a few stories and main points to fit the time constraints. I was listening to the radio program shortly after, and Rush mentioned that his grandfather once told him that you can tell everything about character of a person, by the way they treat those who can't do anything for them. That described the dynamic of my friend in a nutshell, giving me a primary theme for my message.
Limbaugh's generosity and philanthropy were obvious to me, despite the mischaracterizations by his critics. And as it turns out, I knew little about the magnitude of either. For myself, Rush was not so much a political pundit or a comic genius, though he certainly was those things. For myself, he was a motivator, leaving me with an overarching sense of optimism which didn't come natural for me. For that reason alone, he was a national treasure.
Rush Limbaugh was more than a pioneer who blazed a trail. He was an apostle because he brought new conservative enlightenment to this generation. Not long ago, Green Bay Packers fans, along with football fans in general, mourned the loss of legendary quarterback Bart Starr. Mr. Limbaugh's loss, for the conservative movement, is the equivalent to having lost Mr. Starr while he was still a player.
When Mr. Limbaugh lost his hearing; I assumed his hosting the program would come to an end. His resilience to continue the program with his handicap was, to me, astounding. It was bested only by the effort he put in by soldiering through a terminal illness during the final year. He was entirely genuine about his objectives and loyal to his audience to the end.
There is a parallel between Rush Limbaugh's passing and what has gone on in the Christian evangelical community since the days I've been writing this column. Many great stalwarts have passed into eternity and the ultimate question is who shall replace them? Rush always professed that he had "talent on loan from God." Many people misinterpreted that assertion as conceit, rather than the humility it actually was. If God called the loan in with Rush's passing, then it's up to God to redistribute that gifting as He sees fit. Eventually, someone will occupy Rush's time slot, but if we expect a talent search will discover the next Rush Limbaugh, we are probably looking in the wrong place. Making up the deficit will likely involve all of us standing on Mr. Limbaugh's shoulders and reaching a little higher, as the inspiration gleaned from absorbing his life's passion enables us to do so.
As I observe the outpouring in the aftermath of Rush's passing, I think of the words the Wizard of Oz gave to the Tin Man ďA heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others."
Every life can be characterized as a brief splash in the pond of eternity, with some splashes being greater than others. Rush Limbaugh's splash of inspiration provided a wake, whereby the waves will perpetually wash up on the hopeful shore.© Robert Meyer
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.