I grew up in a small Methodist church where it seemed like EVERYONE but my family were descendants of the Wallace family. Well, it didn’t just seem that way - they really were! Even though I wasn’t a Wallace, I *felt* like I was. In my mind all the Wallace cousins were my cousins too. Chris was one of my Wallace cousins, although he loved to point out that I wasn’t really related. He used to tell me that when I got invited to Christmas Eve, he’d accept me as a cousin. He also used to stab me in the ribs with a pencil during church, just to try to get me to make a noise. (He knew that the hardest spanking I ever got was because I talked in church). He was the first person who ever said to me “You like seafood?”… then he opened his mouth (which was full of food) and said “See? Food!”. Yuck. I actually have a picture of him doing that, but my scanner is broken so I can’t put it on here. (For this, you should be thankful, because it's gross)
When I was in 8th grade and he was a junior, I BEGGED him to take me to prom. He just looked at me like I had lost my mind. I really, really, really wanted to go to prom and he didn’t have a date yet so it made perfect sense to me. I am usually very persuasive and can talk my way into (or out of) most anything, but he was immune to my charms.
After Chris graduated from high school and went to Auburn, we started corresponding through letters. We continued that all through his Auburn years, and even after he went to Virginia Tech. Most of his letters were funny, with him either making fun of me about something, or laced with the typical Chris sarcasm that he was so good at. Most people who have IQs as high as Chris are so smart that they don’t have a whole lot of common sense or very normal sense of humor. He had both. He called me “Miss Danville” and got an especially good laugh when he found out I was dating a boy named “Willard”. For two years, he would ask about my love life and if I was still dating
As happens with most childhood/adolescent friendships, we drifted apart once we hit adult life. We both married and had children, and our paths didn’t cross as often as they once did.
The day of Chris’ accident is as fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday. I was on my way to the beach when my mom called. She said a tree had fallen on Chris and he was hurt bad. I was travelling with about my family and some of Willard’s family, so there was about a dozen of us. I didn’t want to ask them to turn around, plus I knew there was nothing I could do, so we went on the beach. I hardly slept a wink because I kept thinking about him and wondering how he was doing. I called my mom first thing the next morning and she told me he had died. It hit me like a ton of bricks. He was so GOOD. I immediately started questioning God and wondering WHY HIM?!? I made the decision not to come back for the funeral and it’s one that I will forever regret. I didn’t get to say goodbye and I guess I just kind of pretended it didn’t happen. For MONTHS after his death, I thought I saw Chris at red lights, at Wal-Mart, etc. I would do a double take and realize it was just some random person with hair similar to Chris’ or features similar to his. I started thinking he was mad at me and was going to haunt me for not coming to his funeral! One day I was driving down Johnson Chapel Road and decided to see (for the first time) where he was buried. I stopped and had myself a good little cry. I guess since I missed the funeral, I never had closure. I needed to say goodbye in my own way. I was a few months late, but I said goodbye that day to my old friend.
When I read “Heaven Is For Real” a couple of months ago, Chris was one of the first people I thought of. I don’t know if Jesus allows you to do the “seafood” trick in Heaven, but if He does, I’m looking forward to seeing it.
I miss you, Chris Russell.