The loss of a loved one has a way of putting your life into perspective. It certainly puts politics into perspective. I’ve always maintained that the only healthy reason anyone, Right or Left, should become politically active is that they advocate for ideas that will lead to a better world for themselves and those they love. Indeed, when I hear of family members or friends who have a falling out or don’t speak to one another over politics, I can’t help but notice the perversity of it all. When your friends and family come in second to politics, your priorities are seriously out of whack.

Claude Martin left this world on Feb. 2. He was my best friend. In fact, we were so close for so many years that he was practically a part of my family. Like most of my friends and family, Claude wasn’t very political. In fact, the only time I remember him getting worked up about a political issue was during the 1990s when the City of North Charleston tried to enact a law that would require strippers and strip club patrons to maintain a 10-ft. distance at all times. Today, liberal activists “occupy” everything from Wall Street to D.C. To preserve his fellow citizens’ lap-dancing rights, Claude was more than ready to occupy Diamonds for as long as it took.

And that’s exactly the sort of funny story I thought about when I flew into town for Claude’s funeral. When I looked down upon Rivers Avenue in North Charleston as my plane was landing, I remembered sneaking out of Hanahan High School with Claude to go to the now long-gone Rally’s Hamburgers for lunch. When I stepped off the plane into the airport, I recalled the time Claude and I chased down our childhood hero Ric Flair in the baggage claim area for photographs; to make matters worse, we had followed Flair’s limousine from the Joe, where he had made an appearance. Even Claude’s funeral procession brought back a flood of memories: a trip through Summerville brought us near the Knightsville area, where Claude and I would visit the old Summerville Speedway on Saturday nights. I think we usually enjoyed watching the redneck brawls in the pit area and the stands more than the actual racing.

Charleston will always be a part of me, Claude will always be a part of me, and everywhere I look around my hometown, I have a story about Claude.

Claude’s untimely passing this month put my own life and what’s truly important into perspective. It reminded me that my conservative beliefs are ultimately derived not simply from who I am, but the people who’ve made me who I am. My dad has always been my greatest hero; as a businessman, a husband, and a father, the example he has given me for how to live a good life has always been my primary blueprint.

Wanting what’s best for those you love is where any normal person’s politics should come from. This is as true for liberals as it is for conservatives. But it is even more important to remember that those we love, more than anything else, shape who we are as individuals. Human beings are social animals whose grand total is their life’s experience. This experience is primarily a history of who we socialize with, whether by choice or circumstance. Within ourselves, we contain and recollect this root substance of our being, journeying through life guided — or misguided — by our hearts, all under the grace and mercy of God. If you lose a job or a few dollars, you only lose something momentarily; it only seems to be monumental. But if you lose a friend or family member, you lose a piece of yourself forever.

Up until now, I’ve always envisioned being able to tell Claude about whatever has happened. I thought he would always be there and we would both grow into old age. The idea that Claude wouldn’t be around was not part of any equation I had in mind. It’s still not something I’ve fully accepted.

But if losing Claude also means losing a part of me, I suppose the reverse is also true — that as long as I’m alive, Claude will be alive as well. This is more than just a comforting thought. I think it has to be true because there is no way I will ever forget my dearest friend.

Jack Hunter assisted Sen. Jim DeMint with his latest book, Now or Never: Saving America From Economic Collapse. He is also the official campaign blogger for GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, and he co-wrote Rand Paul’s The Tea Party Goes to Washington. You can hear Southern Avenger commentaries on The Morning Buzz with Richard Todd on 1250 WTMA.

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