By SARA RASMUSSEN
Alaska was rocked with news Wednesday evening and Thursday morning of the passing of Anchorage’s beloved, and universally-respected state Senator Chris Birch.
For the first time seemingly in months, the news cycle took a break from our state’s ongoing policy battles to rightfully mourn the loss of a devoted husband, father, grandpa, and friend. The outpouring of love and respect shown for Senator Birch and his family over the last 24 hours is undoubtedly a testament to who he was.
Senator Birch was a charismatic Alaskan who captured a room instantly when he walked in. He was passionate and stood for his beliefs. While we did not always agree on every facet of every policy, our disagreement didn’t prevent him from treating me, and anyone else who might have disagreed, with the utmost respect. He didn’t allow political disagreements to become personal animosity the way that so many in this line of service do. He was quick to listen, slow to speak, and committed to the things he believed in.
Moments like these, as difficult as they are, puts into proper perspective the things that are truly important. We, as Alaskans can put our differences aside, come together and find common ground – even if that common ground is as simple as a friendship with a great man.
Our state is suffering from deep division, unlike anything I’ve seen in my lifetime as an Alaskan. But I choose to believe that Senator Birch’s passing will bring about a hidden blessing – an opportunity that only a refocusing of priorities can: to come together, to be unified on the common ground that we have, and to move forward with a little bit more kindness, compassion, and empathy towards each other.
Perhaps the statement from Senator Birch’s family says it best: “Life is short and can change at any moment. He never missed an opportunity to give a hug, lend a hand, or spend time with his loved ones. My only recommendation is to try to live your life like Chris Birch did. I know we do every day.”
In the hostile environment that is politics, may we never miss an opportunity to be a good neighbor and friend. There is no better way to honor the life of Chris Birch.
Rep. Sara Rasmussen serves District 22 in the Alaska Legislature.