Remembering Tim Russert 1950 – 2008
My love of politics began at the assasination of President Kennedy when I found myself looking up at all the crying adults in my elevator wondering what would bring so many grown-ups to tears.
I woke up in the middle of the night when Senator Bobby Kennedy was killed to find my Dad on the edge of his living room chair staring at the television and there I was sitting next to him. The pain on his face was intriguing to me and I wanted to share that with him.
It caused me to walk into New York City Mayor John Lindsay’s storefront campaign office at the age of 11 with my best friend who sat behind me in class, Ellen McHugh, to ask if we could help. They put us to work hanging posters on street lamps and we were so proud to be a part of that campaign.
The summer I was 16, I worked for the Mayor of my Village on Long Island and had a blast. I’ll never forget those funky colored outfits he’d wear to go golf on Wednesdays.
As I went onto college, I ran and was elected to floor rep and dorm president and was active in school government. I loved it. And later I helped run Perot’s NYC campaign and became Head of the Petition Drive to get him on the ballot in NY State. Eventually I ran the campaign in Queens and Staten Island.
But the most memorable was as a Precinct Captain and member of the Executive Committee in Florida during the 2000 election. What a wild ride to live that there.
Although I had many wonderful experiences during that election cycle, what stands out in my mind so vividly was the reporting and white board of Tim Russert that year. I was amazed at how he knew all the electoral votes within each state and I found myself working the numbers with him. It was heaven for me. It was thrilling and challenging and so amazing that it kept you hanging on for all the latest projections from Tim.
On Friday when I went online to see my email and there the headline said he had suddenly died, I was shocked as was most Americans who follow politics. I just stared at the computer screen and slumped in my seat.
I told a friend who said, “Tim Russert? Meet the Press Tim Russert?” To which I replied, “Yes, THE Tim Russert.” And everything within me just simply could not believe this.
I spent the majority of my weekend watching all the tributes on MSNBC Friday night and Saturday night and then today I taped Meet the Press. How could I not.
I guess because my love of politics coupled with my passion to help the bereaved, makes me somewhat more sensitive to these kinds of things.
I looked at the Lord’s picture which hangs in my home and said, “Exactly what were you thinking? Can’t we rewind this tape?”
From my perspective, and others are saying this as well, it was absolutely, postively NOT the right time for him to leave us. His work was not done here, in my eyes. He had so much more to tell us and educate us on the political process. And he had so much more to give humanity and his family and friends who deeply loved him.
So I ask you Lord, “Can’t we please rewind this tape? Can’t we at least finish out this incredible election cycle because nothing would have been more thrilling than to see him play with that white board scribbling down possibilities as we come close to election day?”
Yet from a bereavement perspective, I’m aware that death is never fair. It doesn’t come in the time factor we’d request. Because there really never would be a good time for someone so great to die, would there be. When exactly would the right time be.
If it were after the election, then we might enjoy his play-by-play, but his family wouldn’t see him and his beloved wife watch Luke marry.
If it were after the marriage, perhaps his family and friends wouldn’t see him as a grandfather sharing the joys of grandparenting.
But it turned out, God called him now…bad timing for us, but obviously the right timing for the Lord. That’s the sucky part. We don’t get to be in on the decision. And quite frankly, it never seems like good timing anyway you look at it.
So since the Lord can’t rewind the tape I wish he would, I must be content to wish his family and friends comfort in knowing that there were many of us, who never had the privilege of knowing this gentle giant, but saw through the television that he was indeed so genuine, so pure of heart, so committed to those around him, so funny, so real, so enthusiastic about what he did in life and from my perspective, he gave us a legacy of love that will never leave any of us.
Someone like Tim Russert lived his life to the fullest. I often say I want to live till I die. And it’s rare I find others who share that passion. Tim had that. He was a rare and treasured man to his family and friends and I, for one, will miss his smiling face and exuberant energy and laughter.
His passion to engage and educate Americans in the political process was simply divine.
So now God gets to have the firsthand play by play this election cycle, while He’s greeting Tim and saying, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”