Thoughts by Jeffrey Alan Russell

(My coworker, Jeff Russell, typed up these thoughts after his wife died. He died seven weeks after she did, on August 15th, 2014, at 42. These thoughts were distributed at his memorial service. I wanted them to spread further, so I have retyped them and posted them here. This is a further reminder to me that we should not wait to fulfill our dreams. He wanted to write – and this is all that he produced. My father said for years that he was writing a book about Beethoven, and after he died (at 60) there weren’t even notes to try to assemble. We cannot wait. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.)

Jeff Russell2

By the Master’s Hand
I have decided to finally (and reluctantly) put down the pen and stop writing my life story, instead letting the One who knows it best to complete the chapters. The short article I was attempting to write over the years may possibly now become an epic adventure that never would have occurred at my own keyboard. That which might have ended as a footnote and forgotten through the ages has now limitless possibilities, too wonderful to even describe in printed word. Every chapter even grander than the last – and perhaps best of all, a story that can go on forever.

Missing Keys
True losses are like a few keys on a piano that have been snatched away. The instrument still plays well enough and we are able to make do for the most part. There are, however going to be some songs that can never be played again.

Open Eyes
When we were children, our parents kept us from doing some things for our own good. It might have been fun to skip school or eat candy instead of food, or stay up late every night, but it wouldn’t have been good for us. In fact, if they had let us always have our own way, it would have been considered serious neglect and abuse. We may not have understood their rules or even believed them when they told us it was the best way, but we had to set aside our doubts and simply trust them. It is the same now with our relationship with God. We may question what He does, but surely He always knows best. One day, when we are clothed in nothing but the Spirit and are standing at last in His presence, we may be ready for the full truth to be spoken and the heart to understand. But even then, our eyes will only be beginning to be opened. One never knows…

The Garden
Always do your best, even if it seems that no one is noticing or appreciating it. Those seeds you drop today will likely take root, maybe years from now, in the most unexpected places and times. This is why everything we do is important, even the smallest things. Make no mistake, we will reap from every seed that we sow one way or another. We must always take care of our gardens. One never knows…

The Hall of Souls
We are not forgotten. If at times you feel lost, as I do, just remember He has numbered even the hairs on your head and remembered them. The 20th century writer and prophet Edgar Cayce once wrote that God has a great “Hall of Records”, a spiritual library with the names of every soul that has ever lived or whoever will live. There, watching and loving us each moment of our turning and twisting lives, He waits patiently for us to return to Him where we belong. We are most certainly never forgotten.

New Chapters
We were never meant to settle quietly into structured, secure lives, thinking that the best times were past and we’re now too old for adventures. He means for us to be as prepared to set sail for new lands at 70 as we were at 21. If you are still here you’re up for deployment. Always live with our bags packed and your heart open. You never know where He means to take you.

Ask and ye shall receive… but maybe not in the time you expected or wanted. Our schedules are not His, and timing truly is everything. Who knows better than God the precise moment when we should turn left or right? Do not worry- He has heard your request, and He knows that time is short – but there are things that must happen first, very important things, things that you could not possibly foresee or understand. The cart must not come before the horse. Take a deep breath, and be thankful that it is in His most capable hands.

Pain Opens the Door
It’s an odd thing that the more sorrowful and sad I feel, the closer I am to Him – the more willing I am to finally put my life under His control. In bliss, when times are good, the Lord becomes an afterthought – on the back burner. When my sturdy little house of cards finally collapses, however, it is Him I turn to. How much better it would be that I would always choose Him first, not wait until there’s nothing left. As C.S. Lewis said, “God will have us, even when we have shown to prefer everything else to Him.”

Jeff Russell

June 9, 1972 – August 15, 2014

Give me away

When I die if you need to weep
Cry for your brother or sister
Walking the street beside you
And when you need me put your arms around anyone
And give them what you need to give me.

I want to leave you something
Something better than words or sounds.

Look for me in the people I’ve known or loved
And if you cannot give me away
At least let me live in your eyes and not on your mind.

You can love me most by letting hands touch hands
By letting bodies touch bodies
And by letting go of children that need to be free.

Love doesn’t die, people do
So when all that’s left of me is love
Give me away.

-Anonymous, copied from Page 346 of the book “Life Prayers”
I read this at a coworker’s memorial service.

The Dragonfly

Once, in a little pond, in the muddy water under the lily pads, there lived a little water beetle in a community of water beetles. They lived a simple and comfortable life in the pond with few disturbances and interruptions.

Once in a while, sadness would come to the community when one of their brother or sister beetles would climb the stem of a lily pad and would never be seen again. They knew when this happened that their friend was dead, gone forever.

Then, one day, one little water beetle felt an irresistible urge to climb up that stem. However, she was determined that she would not leave forever. She would come back and tell her friends what she had found at the top.

When she reached the top and climbed out of the water onto the surface of the lily pad, she was so tired, and the sun felt so warm, that she decided she must take a nap. As she slept, her body changed and when she woke up, she had turned into a beautiful blue-tailed dragonfly with four broad wings and a body designed for flying.

So, fly she did! As she soared she saw the beauty of a whole new world – and a far better way of life than what she had ever known existed.

Then she remembered her beetle friends, and how they were thinking that by now she was dead. She wanted to go back to tell them, and explain to them that she was now more alive than she had ever been before. Her life had been fulfilled rather than ended.

But her new body couldn’t not go back into the water. She could not get back to tell her friends the good news. Then she understood that the time would come when they, too, would know what she now knew. So, she raised her wings and flew off into her joyous new life.

-author unknown-

(This was read at my Mother-in-law’s memorial service, and I think it is worthy of passing on)