Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Tribute to my Uncle Russell

I write this blog entry with tears in my eyes. This is not entry that I had planned to write, at least not in the near future. For those of you who follow me on facebook, you are probably already aware of what has happened. Late in the evening on July 12th, my dear Uncle Russell died in his home in Spring, TX. 
At first, I was unable to cope at all… I couldn’t even think. It was difficult to just keep myself together. We received the call at 3am on July 13th from my Aunt Reba who had just arrived home from Dallas, to find her husband's body. He had just spoken with her on the phone a few hours earlier. My husband Ivan had seen him the previous day. We had dinner plans on Saturday evening. I will never forget waking up at 3am to my husband on the phone with someone, giving contact information for other family members, and asking if “he needed to come over”. I knew something was wrong. When I asked what was wrong in a frantic, “just woken up” state of mind, he turned, sighed and said “Uncle Russell died”. These words were impossible to me… it felt like I was in a time warp or a dream state. It was as if my mind was playing tricks on me… did I just hear that? I couldn’t have heard that. I started to sob, and sob, and sob, as I attempted to get dressed to go be with my Aunt. 

My Uncle Russell and Aunt Reba live within a mile of us, actually in the same development. We drive by their home every day. We saw them frequently for dinners, holidays, birthdays, BBQs, and just random get-togethers. Often times when we were walking around the neighborhood, we would stop by as we walked by their house. We moved into this area to live close to them.  This can’t be happening… it just….. can’t. But somehow in my mind… I know.. that it is. 

When we arrived at the house, the police had just arrived. I almost jumped out of the car before Ivan even had a chance to park it. I ran into the house, to find Reba standing there…with a tears soaked shirt, and blood shot eyes. It was as if she had seen a ghost. I ran to her and we embraced… and then we cried, and cried, and cried some more. This could not be happening. Russell was healthy; he just had a physical; for goodness sake, we had dinner plans for Saturday! What could have happened? Why was this happening?

We stayed until around 6am. At this point I had to get ready for work, although, I couldn’t bear the thought of actually going there. I was in a zombie state at work… I couldn’t think, I didn’t really want to talk… I just wanted to cry. I was off and on all day… crying and then “having it together” and then crying again. Ivan was with my Aunt, and her sisters also came by to be with her. As soon as I left work, I came to the house. 

This has been such an awful experience. Uncle Russell was the closest relative I had to being in my immediate family. My parents (as many of you know) live around 16 hours away. Russell was almost a surrogate father since my father lived so far way. When I had questions about projects around the house, he was always there to help and give me advice. When it was Memorial Day and we wanted to have a BBQ, who did we call? Uncle Russell and Aunt Reba. We have spent the last two Thanksgivings with them in our home.  I remember one day that we just were making a lot of food and we knew that Reba was going to be out of town so we invited him over. It was a great night! We ate steaks, and mashed potatoes, and had Brazilian cheese bread. Then we all talked until around 10:30pm….these are the wonderful memories that I will cherish forever. 

I know many people have asked me how he died. He was not sick, he was perfectly healthy. His death was caused by one of his arteries in his heart giving out. The wall had thinned and it just gave out. There is a medical term for it, but I can’t remember it. Either way, the coroner said that even if he had been in the hospital when it occurred, there wouldn’t have been anything the doctors could have done. More than likely, it caused him to pass out and then die almost instantly. There are also no preventative tests that can determine whether this will happen or not. There is just no way of knowing. His death was truly sudden and unexpected. 

Russell was truly a wonderful person… he will be missed by everyone who knew him. Please keep my family and especially Russell’s wife, Reba in your prayers.

Here is a video I created for his memorial service. 


  1. Lindsey, you and Ivan were an amazing support system for Aunt Reba throughout this entire, horrible experience. I know you two will continue to be there for her, and I know that everyone in the family is grateful for you and your proximity to her. Your video, obituary, speech, and now this blog were wonderful tributes to Uncle Russell. Thank you to you and Ivan. You both showed selflessness and sacrifice during a time of need. Love you. Hang in there. Hold on to those happy memories.

  2. So sorry for your loss, Lindsey.

  3. Lindsey and Ivan,
    Words cannot express the comfort brought to me by your presence and you caring and thoughtfulness during such a difficult period. You wrote this with tears in your eyes, which is how I read it.
    Your Uncle Russell cared deeply about you and Ivan, and all of the Johns family members. He would have been honored by your tribute. He would also have loved (and laughed with us) as we watched the DVD you created for the services.
    With much love,