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Goodbye, Andrew, and thank you

The morning I heard that Andrew Breitbart was dead, I was barely awake as the radio announcement broke through my groggy brain. The news, however, snapped me to attention and I began a day that drifted between the radio and the Internet to get the news, the updates, the speculation and the remembrances.

I didn’t know Andrew personally, but he was a guest on my KSFO radio program many times, always generous with his time and comments.

He was outspoken, brash, courageous and tireless.

I loved the story of his life from wild-child liberal to wild-man conservative! I admired him and his work and his accomplishments. He made my job easy, but his job was never-ending and difficult, battling the establishment.

The love/hate relationship Andrew’s work engendered was apparent in the reactions to his death.

Conservatives, those who were friends and those who were fans, lamented the loss and praised his diligence and courage in exposing the hypocrisy in today’s culture and politics.

To call the liberals predictable in their reaction to Breitbart’s passing would be generous. They were like lemmings going over the cliff, and their veiled insults were almost pleasant compared to the viciousness of blogs and tweets that relished in delivering the most egregious insults.

But the one aspect of his death was the suddenness. According to reports, he was fine, went out for an evening walk, stopped for a glass of wine and spent some time in good conversation and on his way home, dropped dead. Literally. He was 43.

Despite speculation there might have been foul play because of his new investigation of Barack Obama’s college days – which is not out of the realm of possibility – the public and his family are left to accept he had a heart attack and died, almost instantly, with no warning and no time to be with family.

I pray for him, and I grieve for his family, especially his wife and four young children.

Coming to grips with the reality of their loss will neither be quick nor easy.

I know because I’m there, too.

I lost my brother on Labor Day to instant death. He literally dropped dead while working in his garage. His wife wondered why he hadn’t come in the house for the evening and went to check on him.

She found him sprawled on the floor, dead.

There were no warnings, no illness, and no ongoing health problems.

There was no time to give warning or to say good-bye or to say “I love you” or even, to say “I’m sorry.”

It was bad enough for his wife; at least, she was there, at their home on the East Coast. She could see him and touch him and now she lives with the memories of a long life together.

For me, it’s been different. I wasn’t there when it happened. As a matter of fact, I was on the air, doing my radio program in San Francisco, 3,000 miles away, when the call came in. My producer decided it was the better part of valor to wait the extra 45 minutes until I got off the air to tell me.

When he did, I lost it. It took awhile until I was composed enough to talk with his wife and then drive home, crying all the way. I still cry.

It wasn’t supposed to happen. He wasn’t sick. We were together when our mother died a few months prior and since then, had spent time together dealing with her things but also reminiscing about our childhoods and getting to know each other after many years apart.

We were making plans to meet in a few weeks at Mom’s house to continue that job – but that wasn’t meant to be.

I miss him more than I ever imagined I could or would. In fact, I never considered I would lose him since we had found each other again. I thought we had time. It never occurred to me his life clock would stop suddenly, without warning, leaving me in the depths of grief I could never have imagined.

When my father died a few years ago, I wrote that I had become an “adult orphan.” I valued my mother even more after that, and when she died, it was awful, but at least I had my brother and we renewed our family relationship.

Then suddenly he was gone and I realized that, as far as my personal family was concerned, I am alone – physically, and as far as my immediate family was concerned, I am the last one.

Yes, I have my children and their families whom I treasure, but as for my personal family, it’s just me. That’s tough to accept.

My daughter called me early on the morning of Andrew’s death and told me she’d just heard about him and she was shocked.

“He was so young,” she said – “so close to my age.” It’s always hard to accept people your own age dying. Old people are supposed to die, not young people.

But death isn’t choosy. We are all targets, regardless of our station in life, our location or our age. That’s not easy to accept, but whether we do or not doesn’t matter.

As the song says, “Que Sera, Sera” – whatever will be, will be.

I reminded her of that and also of the old advice that when we say “goodbye” to someone, there’s always the chance you might never see them again.

It happened to me and now to Mrs. Breitbart and her young family.

I cry for them, too.

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