Rush Limbaugh may be dying – but he’s living each day with the tenacity and courage of a man on a mission without end.
Nearly one year removed since his diagnosis of stage-four lung cancer last winter, the Hall of Fame broadcaster – despite a doctor’s pronouncement that his condition is terminal – continues to host his highly rated radio program.
In poignant, heartfelt comments just days before Christmas, Limbaugh told his national audience, “The day is going to come folks where I’m not going to be able to do this.”
But today is not that day, at least not yet.
Although on and off the air for the last twelve months for extended medical treatments, the radio legend has, from time to time, offered updates and personal reflections on his roller coaster medical journey.
Speaking of his initial diagnosis, Rush Limbaugh admitted, “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.”
Limbaugh’s sarcastic and playful braggadocio aside, cancer or any sickness is no respecter of race, class or creed, of course. Over 150,000 Americans die from lung cancer each year, and over 600,000 from all forms of the dreaded disease.
A Man at Peace
The 70-year-old Missouri native has told his audience he’s a man at peace – eager to live, but confident about where he’s going when he eventually dies.
“I try to remain as committed to the idea what’s supposed to happen,” he said, “will happen when it’s meant to. I mentioned at the outset of this – the first day I told you – that I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is of immense value, strength, confidence.”
He continued, “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. There’s some comfort in knowing that some things are not in our hands.”
A Chance Encounter
Like so many of his millions of dedicated listeners, I’ve been a fan of the “Doctor of Democracy” from the beginning. Over 30 years ago, while in high school, I was listening to Rush as I drove around in my beat-up ’73 Volkswagen Bug. In college, he came with me on training runs for my first Marine Corps Marathon.
Following graduation, a fortuitous encounter with Rush outside the “EIB Tower” in mid-town Manhattan changed my life. Wrestling with a job opportunity from a publisher, I asked him for advice.
“It’s not complicated,” he said. “If you want to be happy in life, you need to figure out what you want – and then go for it. Don’t settle for second best. Do you want to work for a publisher?”
I admitted that I preferred newspapers or radio.
“Then go work for a newspaper or a radio station. But don’t be picky. Take whatever job there that will get your foot in the door.”
He shared with me that he knew what he wanted to do when he was just 8 years-old — how the disc jockeys on the radio seemed to be having so much more fun than everybody else working other jobs.
I took his advice, declined a role at Penguin Publishing and soon landed a job with Newsday, a major newspaper on Long Island. My time there prepared me for my eventual roles at Focus on the Family, where I’m now in my 24th year of service.
Not Easily Defined
Profiles of Rush Limbaugh understandably revolve around his political and ideological views, along with his colorful, hard-charging personality. Few broadcasters rise to such prominence, let alone for four decades. No matter what someone may think of him, there’s something to be said for longevity, especially in this day and age of rapidly changing tastes.
Rush Limbaugh is a man of many gifts, including a unique ability to entertain while educating.
At the same time, I think Rush is teaching us his greatest lesson in what is likely the final chapter of his long and storied career.
A month ago, he told his audience that he was living day to day, a man on borrowed time.
He was right – but so are we all.
Life is tenuous and fragile, full of the unexpected and unpredictable. It’s why Jesus’ half-brother James referred to us as a “mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). People who think they may have many years left often have only a few – and vice-versa.
But that Rush Limbaugh continues to broadcast between treatments is a testimony to his resilience and a reminder that life’s tough twists and turns need not paralyze us from taking action and making the most of the resources God has given us. We don’t have to be one-hundred percent to be in the game – we sometimes just need to be willing to wade in and do our best.
You may not have a terminal diagnosis, but perhaps a setback has discouraged you. Maybe someone has let you down. Or you’ve made a big mistake. So, instead of working, you’re worrying. You’re grousing and grumbling, despondent and dejected.
A Canadian physician named Sir William Osler said his whole life was changed by 21 words from the British historian and writer Thomas Carlye, who once noted, “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”
For an ailing Rush Limbaugh, even amidst his discomfort, that’s to go on the radio and help make sense of the seemingly senseless. He sees it not just as his job – but his calling.
America’s been through a lot this past year, but like Rush Limbaugh, she’s gotten back up when she’s been knocked down. And like the resilient radio icon, there have been days when the effects of all the strain and stress begin to show.
I’m grateful for Rush Limbaugh, and I’m especially thankful that his eternal destiny is secure.
Photo from [ALLEN EYESTONE/palmbeachpost.com] via Imagn Content Services, LLC/REUTERS