There’s something about seeing a grave stone, marking the end of a 22-year-old’s life.
Especially when that life was her’s.
There’s something about seeing nothing but a dash, cutting clear from one birthday to another.
Especially when you know the person had much to give.
There’s something about seeing a man, graying and tired, sniffle over a baby sister’s grave.
Especially when she took his heart with her.
Amanda LeAnne Russell was my aunt–the well-loved younger sister of my dad. She was known for bringing a lot of joy to her home. She was known for loving everything around her, right down to the mouse she took on as a pet. She released him nearly a week before her death. My dad stood with her at the edge of the field behind my grandparents’ home and asked, “Why are you letting the mouse go?” She smiled and answered, “It’s just time.”
And she was right.
September 22nd, 1983, my dad went out to her favorite hot dog place where he purchased the last dinner she would ever eat.
The day before her birthday, she was making her parents’ bed when a gun, buried between the two mattresses, went off. She died the next day, on her 22nd birthday. The day was September 24th, 1983.
And here, 31 years later, we stand in front of her grave. “She was the best of us,” Dad says, “She really was.”
And as we turn to leave, Dad looks back with a smile, “Huh. Some of her favorite wildflowers are budding right near her grave. What do you know about that?”
Her life was filled with love, laughter, and kindness. Though her world wasn’t always an easy place to be, she made the world around her brighter and happier. The day she left, the world lost one of the greats.
Though she is no longer alive, hope remains through Jesus Christ alone that she is in a better place. But for now, we continue her legacy by telling her story and of the Hope that wrapped around her and carried her into eternity.
Happy Birthday, Aunt Amanda. You are not forgotten.