Saturday, July 28, 2012

Uncle Russell

For those of you who don't know, on Friday, July 13th, T.J. and I were scheduled to fly to Tennessee in the morning.  I couldn't wait to see my parents and show them how much T.J. had grown.  Well, our happiness came to a bitter stop when I received a phone call from my sister at 4:00 in the morning.  You know something isn't right when you receive a call at that time.  The words still ring in my head from time to time... I can still hear my sister's exasperated voice breaking the news to me that our Uncle Russell had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.  There is still a faint tightening in my chest when I think of that moment- not close, of course, to the feeling within me that morning.  I am not going to go more into my reaction because this isn't about me.  However, I will say that after I got to Tennessee, we all packed up and left that Saturday, drove 16 hours, and arrived in Texas on Sunday where the viewing and funeral were being held.  My sister, dad, and I all spoke at the funeral.  This is what I said:

What can I say about my uncle Russell?  Many things, but definitely this:  he was everything an uncle should have been.  He treated us as if we were his own kids- never forgot a birthday, a graduation, or a wedding.  He had such a great sense of humor and a sweet, loving heart.  I will never forget his generosity.  When my husband, Travis, and I were visiting my sister in Texas, Uncle Russell and Aunt Reba didn't even blink an eye before offering up their home to house us for the week.  I remember teasing him about his crazy technological gadgets- Mom called him the "King of Gadgets"- and I remember how easily he spoke to me and was genuinely concerned for me if I seemed down at all.  Many people couldn't probably have a heart to heart with their uncle, but we were lucky enough to have an uncle like Russell where we could be so comfortable with him.  My son T.J. never got to meet him, but he will hear much about him.  I know Russell would have loved T.J., and I know T.J. would have loved Uncle Russell.  Why?  Because he looks, talks, and acts so much like my dad, T.J.'s grandpa.  And I know that if he had gotten to meet T.J., he would have treated him as if he were his own grandson.  Every time I watched Uncle Russell, I could see my own dad reflected in his face.  I wish T.J. would have had the privilege of seeing that as well.  There is especially one thing from my childhood that I will never forget to tell my son- something so funny about my uncle.  And I will end with this- he would have wanted it that way.  He came to stay with us for a time in Danville, California.  And what I will always remember about him from that time was how he would sit on the couch watching TV and eating brown sugar straight out of the bag!  It was the craziest thing to me and I laugh about it to this day.  We will miss him greatly and love him always.

 He was gone far too soon- only 64 years old.  Please view his obituary here (written by my sister, Lindsey Portugal), and if you wish you can donate to the Alzheimer's Foundation in his honor.  His mother, my Grandma Johns, passed away from Alzheimer's, so finding a cure was always a cause in which Russell was interested.

Here is a video my sister created for the memorial service:


Goodbye, Uncle Russell.  We already miss you and will always miss you.  We love you.


  1. I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. I will assume that both he and you are Christians, so the reunion with your uncle will be much sooner than it now seems to someone your age. Just remember that the best tribute to someone is to be as much like them as you possibly can. In that way, they live on. May the Lord comfort and strengthen you and your family during this time of mourning.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Gorges. I appreciate it.

  2. That is so beautiful. I know he would feel honored. He loved his family so very much. I am so glad you all knew that about him.
    With much love,

    1. We definitely knew that. My heart aches for you, Aunt Reba. I love you very much and am glad you like my tribute to him.