I’d like to tell you a story, bittersweet as it may be.
Once, there was a young couple who was very much in love. She fell for his eyes, ornery and full of life as they were; he fell for her spirit, and they kept each other grounded. They married one August day and started their adventure with miles of travel across the states, but settled down near where they had both been born and raised.
Five little girls later, their family was raised with love and Jesus. One by one, they each married, and the couple gained five sons and, eventually, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
While not perfect, sometimes it was even tense, the family was close despite the distance between them. Held together by respect, love, and the God that created them all, the couple’s family continued to grow.
But one day, the head of the family went to be with the Lord. The whole family mourned for the loss of their patriarch, but they stayed strong. A year later, the family grew again as the eldest great-granddaughter married and soon conceived the first great-great-granddaughter.
The next great-granddaughter had prayed for a man like her GG pappy (which is what the eldest had decided to call her great-grandfather when she was a child, and the name stayed). A few years later, she was blessed with an answered prayer when a young man entered her life with ornery eyes full of life and a heart centered on God.
They married on the same day her great-grandparents had, at the same time, even, which was purely coincidental but a gift from God. Her wedding bouquet held a locket tied around it carefully with a thin pink ribbon. When opened, it showed her great-grandparents’ faces, so even though only one was physically with her, they both were there that day.
The young man encouraged her to use her talents the same way her GG pappy had, and soon she came up with a name for herself that was her real name but was also inspired by her great-grandparents. At her GG pappy’s funeral, a note found in his Bible was read that stuck with her. It said, “hope=divine certainty”. Her middle name, “Nadene”, meant “hope”. She had been named after her great-grandmother (lovingly called “GG”, also named by the eldest great-granddaughter) and her grandmother, which created the odd spelling. But it held more meaning than her parents could have known at the time.
Hope holds more meaning than many of us realize most of the time.
After being happily married to the man she prayed for, she began to write, using this name she had made. She also began to ache because she found out she may not be able to have children, at least not at that time, since she was taking life-giving medications that wouldn’t be safe for a baby.
Soon GG, who was young at the beginning of this story, was no longer physically young. Time took its toll on her the way it does everyone else. She was no longer able to stay at home by herself, but home was where she wanted to be. Her family, which had grown from two to seven to over fifty, stepped in to help. Not everyone was able to help as much as they may have liked, but a few were blessed to not have to worry too much about their jobs and their own children, and they took turns taking care of GG. The second great-granddaughter was one of those few who was able to spend time with GG and suddenly saw the blessing it was to not have children of her own so she could be there with GG.
Spending the night at GG’s house for the first time since she was a little girl inspired her to write an article and submit it for the first time ever. It was accepted and published. She received her copies in the mail one day and was excited to share it, especially with her GG, because it was written about GG pappy.
She knew she wouldn’t get to read it to her GG, but her mom took it to GG’s house, and GG’s youngest daughter read it out loud to them. The next day, with a few family members surrounding her, GG went home to be with her Lord and with her husband.
Today, I untangled the thin pink ribbon that fastened my locket to my wedding bouquet. As I placed the locket back on a chain, I struggled to hook the clasp as my eyes blurred with tears. I wear it now as a tribute to the ones who shaped me more than anyone knows.
How two people, in love with each other and God, could create a family and impact so many, only God knows. While heartbroken, I’m thankful for the legacy left behind. When two people truly love each other and the Lord, amazing things happen that they might not even know about or be around to see. Because they loved, touched, and influenced our lives, we have the opportunity to be that person in someone else’s life. Because of them, churches have been built. Words have been written. Hearts have been taught what love is. Who God is. What family is. A legacy has been made that we didn’t ask for but have been blessed with nonetheless. May we carry this legacy of true love on in our families, in our communities, in our world. Whether you were blood-related to her or not, if you’ve been touched by this, or me, or any member of my family, you’ve been touched because two people fell in love.
May we all carry the legacy learned from Nada Iritta Fletcher Russell and Henry Russell Jr. as we go on from here in Christ.
She was wise and knew her Bible well (she graduated from “Bible School,” as she liked to call it), so we talked about subjects on my heart, including the theology behind songs and how I should determine if I sing them or not. Although I never sang it to her, I spoke these words to her during one of our last days together.
When I think of her and their legacy, this song always comes to my mind. A gift was given to my husband and me by my childhood pastor and his wife for our wedding. His wife told me her husband saw it and knew it was for me. I didn’t know why then, but I think I do now. Perhaps it was prophetic to have these words hanging on my wall, the first thing seen walking in my front door.