|11-9-68 to 25-08-2015|
This is the unedited, first and only draft I did for Russell's tribute service. I never did use it as I decided on the day to just speak from my heart. I found it on my laptop today and am so grateful. I have no recollection of what I actually said at the tribute.
For those who could not be there; this is the best I can do for you at the moment - I have a feeling much of what is written here was covered on the day. I do hope to upload the video footage in the coming month or so.
I don't know what to say. And yet there is so much to say.
Lets start at the beginning. I met Russ as a teen at a multi-denominational young adults group. He only ever came once...lucky for me I managed to peak his interest enough to engage with me in some lively churchy banter. I guess you could say our first date was going to visit a new church together the following weekend. Yup, true story.
What drew me to Russ from the very start was his passion. His intensity. His pure conviction about whatever was on his heart at the time. He drew me out over the weeks that followed and I vividly remember twisting his arm to go to movies instead of studying. I also remember him telling me the story of how in matric he had handed in his prefect badge because he could not stand the hypocrisy of the school system. I may then just have fallen in love with him. He was a straight-arrow bad-ass and I knew I had met my match.
About six weeks into our relationship he had to go to Plett with YFC. It was going to be a long 2 weeks! I can still see us standing in my folks driveway; him about to get into the car to drive away and my heart POUNDING IN MY CHEST because I knew. I knew I had to say it. I told him I loved him that night. He hugged me tight, kissed me goodbye and drove away WITHOUT saying it back.
I walked back into my parents house, into the kitchen where my mom was making supper. I just started to sob uncontrollably. I knew what had just happened had little to do with his response (or lack thereof) and everything to do with the fact that my heart now thoroughly belonged to someone else and that scared me immensely.
Upon his return he casually told me he was in for the long haul – if I didnt see marriage potential I needed to be let him know. Intense. Intentional. Goal orientated. He had me in his sights.
Lucky me. Suffice to say we were married within a year of meeting each other.
Our first ten years were treacherous and we both made big mistakes but we were relentless in our pursuit of each other.
When it hurt we still did the work and each time we overcame our struggles our love and commitment deepened.
I am so grateful for the 24 years we had.
These last 4 months have been the most bittersweet of my life. I was daily humbled by his unwaivering faith. His complete and utter conviction that whatever the outcome our God is a good God and He will not fail us.
Not once did Russ bemoan his circumstances – not once! True to form Russ approached his situation analytically, intentionally and spiritually. While he was ill he did not watch tv, surf the net, read books or fall into a pit of despair. We spent every moment together – doing nothing but simply being together.
The last weekend we had together was so special. Russ was really ill. I was with him and talking to him and trying to be strong while inside I was torn apart; hiding my excruciating pain. Then the most remarkable thing happened – We watched as Russ was transported into the presence of Jesus. He was fully alert, fully awake but very clearly not in our realm. His eyes were bright, full of life and excitement.
I watched as he fully experienced the love and utter joy at being in the presence of His father. He was so deeply overwhelmed by the enfolding love and his gratitude overflowed. He thanked Him endlessly for his peace, joy and love and his words resound in my ears to this day. (and i have it recorded on my phone)
'Lord I don't want this stop, I don't want to lose this'.
We sat in stunned silence, on holy ground, as Russ begged Christ to pour out His love into this valley and over the mountains that each and every one of us (you) could know what it feels like to be fully loved.
When Russ came back to me I jokingly asked him if he was now ready to leave me. And without hesitation he replied yes. He called me his beautiful princess and told me that we will be together soon. That there is no here and there but simply an eternity waiting for us. That this life is simply a taste of our time yet to come.
I cannot tell you what this did for me – to know that my man who simply adores me had found a greater love and deep peace.
I now know, without a shadow of doubt, that heaven and the afterlife is real because Russell told me so.