As I’m typing this, there are without a doubt plenty of leftists callously celebrating online over the death of conservative talk show legend Rush Limbaugh. And even if they can’t put their finger on it, or say otherwise, their utter disdain for Mr. Limbaugh in part derives from what makes him so great and so beloved: his joy.
Never the victim, always the fighter, sometimes the smartass, Limbaugh’s brave and happy warriorism captured the attention and affection (is there another political host whose callers tell him he’s like a father to them?) of millions and millions of Americans on a daily basis for decades while driving political foes out of their minds.
Limbaugh passed away Wednesday morning, his wife, Kathryn, told his loyal listeners at the top of the afternoon program. The icon was diagnosed with stage 4 terminal lung cancer in early 2020 and defied odds by holding on as long as he did — and did so while working until the very end. Kathryn noted her husband’s deep love for our nation, his gratitude, his brilliance, and his fight.
That gratitude and love of country Kathryn spoke of particularly, I believe, fueled the joy that enabled Limbaugh to hang on as long as he did. Even in dark times, nothing about the legendary host reflected a sense of nihilism.
This joy was why you consciously or perhaps subconsciously made it a point to tune into Limbaugh’s program the day after the conservative movement took a particularly hard hit. We wanted the analysis, of course, but also we craved the joy and the hope.
You can almost hear the screeches of Limbaugh-haters when the host calls himself “America’s truth detector,” or emphasizes that he’s proven to be right “99.6% of the time,” and broadcasting with “half my brain tied behind my back … just to make things fair.” “I’m not retiring until every American agrees with me,” goes another jovial Limbaugh phrase.
Following President Donald Trump’s election loss came one of the many crucial times for Limbaugh in his fans’ lives. He repeatedly told listeners to continue to fight, that it’s “never time to panic.” Here’s a taste of the host’s tireless optimism on Nov. 6:
Yes, I’ve told you that I’ll tell you when it’s time to panic. I’ve said over and over again that I’ll tell you when it’s time to panic. It isn’t time to panic because I’m never gonna panic. I’m never gonna give up. So, no, it’s not time to panic. It’s not time to run away. It’s not time to walk away. It’s never gonna be time to run away or walk away from the country.
I’m never gonna run away from the United States of America. I may die, but I’m not gonna run away from the United States of America. I’m not gonna give up. I am not gonna tell you to give up. I’m not gonna tell you to walk away. I’m not gonna tell you it’s time to panic. You can keep asking if you want, but I’m always gonna tell you no.
… There will never be walking away. There will never be abandoning the country — and there sure as hell not gonna be me telling you to. That was always designed as a humorous point, like a rhetorical question. “I’ll tell you when it’s time to panic,” but it’s never gonna be.
Keep on keeping on, no matter how grim things may appear. That’s what Limbaugh did following his devastating diagnosis, too. He didn’t look for sympathy — he even struggled with telling his listeners the news because he loathed talking about himself. And he kept on fighting.
A friend of mine said she wished Limbaugh didn’t see the Trump loss, that he could go with a greater sense of peace. But maybe that was another sacrifice Limbaugh made for us. We needed him in the days and weeks following the loss, and he was there to give us hope, even as he faced his own mortality.
Although there are many more words that could be spilled about the legendary conservative — his extreme generosity, his profound gratitude for his audience, his courage, etc., I’ll attempt to close with a note on Limbaugh’s faith.
The 70-year-old didn’t often discuss his faith with his listeners — and that was intentional. He told us so. Like all of us sinners, Limbaugh was flawed but saved by the grace of God. And he knew it. Again, another peek into what fueled the legend’s joy.
“I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” he told his listeners in a recent program. “It is of immense value, strength, confidence and that’s why I’m able to remain fully committed to the idea that what is supposed to happen will happen when it’s meant to.”
Kathryn told listeners that Limbaugh is an “irreplaceable, remarkable talent.” His listeners surely feel the same. Upon hearing the news, my father, who introduced me to the “magic of Rush,” told me, “No one can take that voice over. No one.”
You can’t be replaced, Mr. Limbaugh. Thank you for touching my life, and millions of others, and bringing us joy, hope, fight. We’ll try to carry on the legacy as best we can. God bless.
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