‘I Wasn’t Expected to Be Alive Today’

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Conservative talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh opened his final broadcast of 2020 on Wednesday pretty much the same way legions of Rushophiles have come to know and love for the last 32 years…

“And greetings to you, music lovers, thrill-seekers, conversationalists all across the fruited plain. It is great to have you here today. Great to be with you. Rush Limbaugh, the EIB Network, and the Limbaugh Institute for Advanced Studies of All Things That Matter. Telephone number, 800-282-2882 if you want to be on the program. We’re gonna do a version of Open Line Friday today, Mr. Snerdley.”

But Wednesday’s “The Rush Limbaugh Show ” was a show unlike any the legend of conservative talk radio has ever done. Not only was it Rush’s final broadcast of a year unlike any year we’ve ever seen, but for Rush, there was more.

As Rush bluntly put it: “I wasn’t expected to be alive today.”

“This is, in fact, the last program of the year for me,” he said. “And, folks, I want to tell you at the outset here, to me this is a very important program.”

“I have very much that I want to say to all of you today, and I’m feeling very pressured. Not pressured. I’m feeling stage fright kind of thing. There’s so much I want to say, and I want to say it correctly.

“I want to convey my feelings, and I want to do it right. I want to do it to the best of my ability. Now, I have found in circumstances like this that the best thing to do is not to think about it..”

Rush went back to January — when his life changed forever.

“Now, in January of this year, toward the end of the month, I received a — you all know, but there’s something I want to say about it — stage 4, advanced lung cancer, terminal diagnosis. The objective of everybody involved was to extend life for as long as possible as enjoyably as possible.

“Now, many of you have been through this — lots of you have been through this as individuals, as families — and you know what that means. Medical treatment that is designed to attack the disease as greatly as possible while maintaining a quality of life that makes it worth it. Some people can’t deal with the side effects of chemo or other forms of treatment.

“Well, back in late January when I received this diagnosis — and I was shocked. I was stunned, and I was in denial for about a week. I mean, I’m Rush Limbaugh. I’m Mister Big of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. I mean, I’m indestructible. I said, “This can’t be right,” but it was. What I didn’t know at the time that I learned later in the course of the year was that I wasn’t expected to be alive today.

“I wasn’t expected to make it to October and then to November and then to December — and yet here I am. Today I’ve got some problems, but I’m feeling pretty good today. God’s with me today. God knows how important this program is to me today, and I’m feeling natural in terms of energy, normal in terms of energy, and I’m feeling entirely capable of doing it today.”

Rush talked about some of the things he’s reflected on over the last year, one of which was the story of New York Yankee legend Lou Gehrig, whose record-breaking career was cut short by a terminal illness in the 1930s.

“I have a little bit of understanding of something that had perplexed me for a lot of my life, and that was Lou Gehrig.

“On the day that Lou Gehrig announced that he had his disease that was forcing him to retire from Major League Baseball, he said to the sold-out Yankee Stadium, ‘Today I feel like the luckiest man on the face of the earth.’

“I didn’t understand that. I mean, here’s a guy who’d just been diagnosed with the most terminal of terminal diseases, and I said, ‘This can’t be real. He can’t really think he’s the luckiest guy in the world. This is just something that he’s saying because it will play well.’

“I don’t mean to be insulting Lou Gehrig; don’t misunderstand. I’m just saying, how in the world if you’re being honest can you feel like you’re the luckiest man on the face of the earth?”

Less than two years after his Yankee Stadium address, Lou Gehrig died at the age of 37.

Rush said his own experiences over the last year have given him a greater understanding of not only the words of Lou Gehrig, all those years ago but also of Gehrig’s perspective on life when he said them.

“Well, when I got my diagnosis and when I began to receive all of the outpourings of love and affection from everywhere in my life from so many of you in so many ways and from my family — who, man, they have supported me my entire career. Even during times, it would have been understandable and easy for them to say, ‘Rush who? We don’t know this guy.’

“But that never happened. I mean, I’ve been totally supported by virtually everybody in my family. I’ve been propped up. I have been defended. I’ve been made to look better than I am. My lovely wife, Kathryn, has done so much in that regard. She has done so much with RushLimbaugh.com and with the charitable efforts that we have engaged in.

“And all of it has been to my benefit — and yours. It’s for the benefit of people who are the recipients of our efforts. So many people have put me first in all of this, and I understand now what Lou Gehrig meant, ’cause I certainly feel like that. I feel extremely fortunate and lucky.

“And because I have outlived the diagnosis, I’ve been able to receive and hear and process some of the most wonderful, nice things about me that I might not have ever heard had I not gotten sick. Again think, how many people who pass away never hear the eulogies, never hear the thank-yous? I’ve been very lucky, folks, in I can’t tell you how many ways.”

On a personal note, I began listening to Rush Limbaugh shortly after his show was syndicated nationwide. I remember telling people unfamiliar with Rush who he was, what he did, and why I believed it — and he was so important to conservatism in America. As the case with other tremendous communicators, Rush has always had the ability to break things down to their simplest terms and convey his thoughts clearly and effectively as a result. Walter E. Williams and Thomas Sowell come to mind as other examples.

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As I began writing this piece last Wednesday evening, I told my “significant other” I was doing it and why. We talked about how precious life is, and how we should enjoy each day that we are given. Thinking back over the events of 2020, Rush Limbaugh’s 2020 put things into perspective. As the age-old reflection says, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

I hope if I were to be faced with a similar situation to those faced by Rush Limbaugh and Lou Gehrig, that I would have the grace of either of them.



 


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