I was standing in a field in a spot where I shouldn’t have been able to get a phone signal when my watch buzzed with the notification: “Radio talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, dead at 70.”, and my heart fell.

Rush Limbaugh was a friend of mine. No, I didn’t know him personally, and I had never met him in real life, but he and I started daily visits while I was the ripe young age of 12 or 13. My dad would listen to his show as the family drove around town in our brown, boxy Ford Aerostar, and I remember being amused by the weirdness of the guy. He had zany music montages, he would whoop and holler, not really over the top, but in a way I hadn’t heard on the radio before except in that small space between songs where DJ’s speak. He got me interested in what was going on in our country, and pointed out to my young skull full of mush that America was a great country, but that some within her borders seem hell-bent on pulling her down. He got me interested in history, the constitution, laws and, most importantly of all, simply learning.

I recall one summer our family went with our church on a weekend camping trip to Monterey Bay. While the other kids were out playing I was laying across the center seat of the same Ford Aerostar, doors and windows wide open to let in the breeze, listening to Rush, for at least a little while. Yeah I was a weird kid.

When Rush finally hit the TV scene with his own little show I remember staying up to watch it on occasion, since in our time zone it came on around 11pm or midnight. I was in high school at the time. I can still see in my minds eye Rush sitting in his seat, looking up toward whatever video clip was playing, with a bewildered look on his face (knowing, of course, that he could not see the clip floating above his head, but it was funny to me).

I won’t go into the history of Rush. Of how he saved the AM frequency, which was once a desert of dead air, sports radio and probably some religious stations who are always talking about “The Seven Signs of the End Days”. There are places much better than here to find that information. I will say, though, that he was in my top ten list of people I would love to meet. He was a compassionate, fun-loving, fantastic giant of media. I feel that, no matter who you were, conservative or democrat, if you treated him respectfully he would have sat and talked and laughed with you for hours, over anything.

And for those out there who are celebrating his passing, well, go ahead, if it makes you feel better. Most of you have no idea who the man was or what he’s said beyond what you’ve been told to believe. Your hatred for Rush Limbaugh is really hatred for yourself, that you can’t accomplish in your lifetime what he accomplished in his show prep. The thing is, though, Rush Limbaugh would have told you, to your face, that you could surpass even him, if you would just embrace American exceptionalism. The concept that built this country. That there is no zero-sum game, and that there is, indeed, enough fame, fortune and opportunity for every American willing to put their nose to the grindstone and take it. He wouldn’t hate you, I don’t think he ever hated those who disparaged him, but rather he tried as hard as he could to turn the hearts and minds of those who hated the country he loved so much into hearts and minds that loved her as much as he did, or more.

That’s all I have say about Rush, though I could go on for a while. I won’t lie, I’ve cried a few times in the past couple of days, and my heart breaks for future generations who won’t get to hear Rush’s booming voice, his crinkling of his show prep papers over the microphone or his insistence that he knows liberals “like every inch of my own glorious, naked body”, but here’s the thing: Rush left behind MILLIONS of Rush Limbaughs! Hannity? Beck? Crowder? Hodge Twins? Anthony Brian Logan? Countless other, not really “conservative” voices, though some claim conservatism, but AMERICAN voices, who aren’t afraid to speak out, who aren’t afraid to want America to remain America. People who fuse entertainment with news and history and wisdom and silliness. Almost every one of them can be found to have a root in Rush Limbaugh somewhere. Rush may have passed, but millions of Rush babies live on.

And we won’t be silenced. And we won’t give up on our United States.

So long, Rush. And thanks.