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So, He's Leaving the Life He's Come to Know

11:59 PM, Oct 27, 2008 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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Our friend Dean Barnett died today. In reading tributes to him--dozens of them--it's clear that considering Dean a friend was easy, whether one had met him online or in person. Even without meeting him, knowing him to be a good and good-humored man required only reading his writing.

His passing is a loss for both our hearts and our cause. Having suffered from cystic fibrosis his whole life, he was a guy who was simultaneously frank about his fate and cheery about his future. The combination was striking, and a gift to all who knew him. There's nothing for getting perspective on your own life like listening to a friend talk about how blessed he is to have a relatively "benign" form of a fatal disease.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dean in person, long after he had become a source of encouragement and support while we were colleagues at Townhall. I don't think I'd miss my guess if I said I have him to thank for putting in more than one good word for me with the folks at the Standard, for which I'm grateful. After meeting him at a conference, I read his pamphlet on living with cystic fibrosis--"The Plucky, Smart Kid With the Fatal Disease."

Dean's political writing was never without a personal touch--his beloved Red Sox and thick-as-chowdah accent were ever present--and his personal story likewise reveals how his struggles shaped the optimistic pundit we came to know. He was a man who was only supposed to live to 30 and accomplished enough for 70. He knew there would not likely be a cure in his lifetime, but welcomed each year as a gift and new treatments as grace. He would have laughed out loud if someone had tried to peg him as a "victim" of anything. Those are the makings of the toughest of happy warriors, and that's what Dean became. We were lucky to have him this long, and I wish so much we could have had him around much longer.

Once, by chance, Dean and I realized we happen to share the same favorite song. I had hoped to post it for him when he came back to writing, but tonight with a much heavier heart, this goes out to him nonetheless. He will be so missed.