It won’t surprise many of my close friends to find out that I was a huge fan of Tim Russert. Over the last 13-14 years I am pretty sure I’ve seen many more episodes of Meet the Press than I missed. So I was very sad when a friend of mine texted me Friday afternoon and informed me that he collapsed and died. Evidently the many on-air tributes including Sunday’s special edition of Meet the Press weren’t enough opportunity for me to make peace with his passing because I’ve spent the last couple hours watchin his public memorial service.
There are many impressive things that have been said about this man, not the least of which are the people who call themselves friends and admirers and his professional legacy as the preeminent political journalist of his generation. He may well be the only political journalist who really deserved a label of ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’ reporting.
However, the impressions I am left with aren’t the famous and powerful with whom he rubbed shoulders or the fact that he was on many occasions given the opportunity to confront powerful people with the truth they were hoping we hadn’t noticed. I’m struck by the redundancy in the many accounts of his life. These accounts are after all coming from professional writers and speakers. Whether you were hearing from close friends, family, colleagues or even former guests from his show: they all described him the same way. Almost the same phrases. As someone who has watched a lot of political television, normally I’d begin wondering if everyone had the same media coach and were reading from the same bulleted list of talking points. How’s that for cynical?
But when it came down to it, through all their very personal accounts of Tim; they all told the same story. They spoke of his love and commitment to his family, his loyal and faithful friendship, his incredibly hard work ethic, tenacity and commitment to be prepared for his job, his mentorship of coworkers for whom he envisioned a successful future and his great love of this country and the political process. And while I do think all of these things are extraordinary tributes – especially his belief in the political process after all he’d seen — the word that keeps coming to my mind is integrity.
It seems to me that Tim was the same man to his family that he was to his friends, colleagues, and even television viewers. Isn’t that really what integrity is – being one complete whole and not a bunch of segmented parts? I mean, even I could have said those same things about Tim after watching him for years because his love of family, friends, country and politics showed in the way he did his job. My first thought after hearing of his death was “not right before Father’s Day, what will Big Russ and Luke do?”
It is kind of weird to cry for someones death that you didn’t know. But then I guess that’s the point, I think he lived and worked in a way that fully poured himself into all of his experiences – even through the television screen to people who would never meet him. From what it sounds, he didn’t hold anything back. What an amazing gift he gave to those into whom he poured himself. He really LIVED community.
Which leaves me asking the question. . . can that be said of me? Do I pour myself out fully? Do I hold back? Or even do I let people pour themselves into me?
Tom Brokaw opened the memorial service by saying that Tim “awoke every morning as if he had just won the lottery the day before.” He added that he was “determined to take advantage of the good fortune he couldn’t quite believe and share it with everyone around him.”
Those words couldn’t have been spoken about a man who blindly moves into the future oblivious to the challenges, obstacles and brokenness of the world we live in. That was spoken about a man who saw it all, considered it all and still chose to believe that he had more to be hopeful for than afraid of, someone who sees the abundance not the shortage, the opportunity and not the challenge.
Sounds like a legacy worth trying to follow.
I have been the recipient of more grace and love than I can conceive of. May I be a vessel through which it may be poured out on to those around me. May I spend this life I’ve been given in a manner that is worthy of the Life that was poured out for me.
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3