June 19, 2008

A Rainbow Over New York City and Tim Russert

My first article titled, “Tim Russert Was My Brother” deserves more consideration after I had a chance to witness his memorial service and listen to the funny stories and heartfelt comments by those who knew and worked with him.

They say that Tim Russert lives on in the hearts of thousands who knew him. Some commented that Russert “was a force of nature and his cycle is complete”. The universe must agree because there was a rainbow resting in the sky over the NBC building in New York City right after his memorial service ended.

I saw a picture of the rainbow on the evening news with Brian Williams. A flag was flying at half-mast as the magical rainbow seemed to touch the top of the building. I hope they make a 20x30 of that memorial photograph in the sky and get it framed in gold.

While most of us are busy rushing about from the weary moment we crawl out of bed in the wee hours of the morning to the midnight hour we fall exhausted back into our unmade bed at night, we still have moments when we wish there was more to life and wonder if we are living up to our potential.

It’s difficult to believe Tim Russert ever had any of those worrisome thoughts. He was too busy enjoying life and taking advantage of every waking hour giving back some of his joy and enthusiasm of living.

“He leaves a legacy of a truly honorable life,” said one mourner yesterday.

“He was noble, compassionate and intensely loyal. He had mastered happiness,” expressed another.

As I debate the question of what is happiness and joy, I suspect he did not connect it to a good hair day, money in the bank or how many compliments he got along the way.

“He said he had been blessed with all he could want,” reflected a long-time friend.

But it seems that what he wanted was to touch everyone he knew with a “Cheerful Strength”,“Radiant Smile”, “Booming Voice” and “Right Paw on your Shoulder”.

“He was a jolly Irish Catholic kid”. “He had a boyish sense of wonder”. “He was all about what’s happening” which by the way, were his last words as he passed a friend in the hallway at work just before he collapsed. He touched her shoulder and greeting her with a booming, “What’s happening?”

What’s happening is that even in death, Russert still brings people together. From the two presidential candidates and rivals, John McCain and Barack Obama who sat next to each other at his funeral service, to families united in a common subject at the supper table.

“He included everyone he knew in his big heart,” Brain Williams remarked about his friend and mentor. “He had a big heart because we were all in it…. He was a brilliant shining star.”

Others remembered Russert as, "A great soul”. “Connected to the country and with each other”. “Always loyal to his team (the Buffalo Bills).”

"He didn’t have a jaded bone in his body,” said one. “He made me ask myself personally if I was living up to my sense of purpose?”

Williams asked the question, “How many of us wished it could be Tim who was doing our eulogy?” assuming everyone understood that Russert would prepare the eulogy just as he diligently researched and was in top form for his famous “Meet The Press” program, every Sunday.

“He might be a small part of God’s design, but he was a big part of this earth,” Williams added as he closed his comments.

Another friend recalled that Russert was filled with optimism and loved challenges. “Anybody can withstand anything,” he was remembered as saying often.

“He was a fabulous storyteller, but he wanted you to tell your story…And he laughed like it was the first time he’d heard it, even though I knew he had heard me tell the story many times,” admitted a longtime friend. She reflected that one story was about Abraham Lincoln when someone told him he was two-faced, Lincoln answered, "If I had two faces, would I be wearing this one?" She said Russert laughed every time and asked her to tell some more.

Dick Ebersol, Chairman of NBC Sports & Olympics recounted how Russert had showed up beside his hospital bed after he had been in a tragic car accident. Russert had traveled all night to be there.

Maria Shriver honored Russert with stories about meaningful moments she shared with him in both her personal and business life. She smiled as she told how he managed to tag along with her to Cuba to interview Fidel Castro. “During the interview, he said he was just there to make sure the lighting was good,” she said with a chuckle. She also recalled that when her uncle Ted Kennedy was diagnosed with a brain tumor, one of the first phone calls was from Russert. “And he not only asked about Ted, he asked how I was doing,” she reflected with gratitude in her voice.

“Washington will never be the same,” Dan Rather stated simply and profoundly at the memorial service.

When people told Russert he was one of the best-known faces in the country, it was reported that he said, “It’s great if you don’t inhale it.”

The legacy that lives on is most visible in Russert’s son, Luke. He stood tall and strong wiping away a few tears as he and his mother followed the heavy dark casket. Luke brought the congregation to its feet with his personal comments about his dad.

Luke recalled attributes about his dad that will live in his heart forever.

“…He always saw the glass half full instead of half empty,” he said as he held up a glass half filled with water”. “He was my best friend.”

Perhaps Tim Russert is a bigger part of God’s design than we thought if he had anything to do with the rainbow over New York City yesterday.

Take Care on the Journey,


No comments: