We have been married 46 years, and from this marriage have issued four sons and a daughter. A motlier crew of diverse human beings one could hardly find on a shanghaied ship sailing from Singapore in the 1800s. For widely differing reasons we are above and beyond proud of each of our kids.
Truth is, I have had such a good experience with rearing our five that I tend to "adopt" a bunch of what I refer to as my "spiritual children." Whatever picture I can commandeer of some of these adoptees are on a bulletin board near my bed. As with all of my spiritual children, I will never be a part of their lives. But, I will never forget them either.
Sarah Small Russell -- my beautiful, beautiful Sarah -- is one of my adopted daughters. And, she may well be the person I've met in our 16 years in Indiana whom I most admire.
Sarah came to live with her aunt, Nancy Breitweiser, while attending ISU. Time eludes all of us, but I'm thinking about 10 years ago. Sarah then and now is just one of those people who anyone would like the moment they meet her. I always call her my beautiful, beautiful Sarah because everything about her draws attention to her dancing eyes.
In the worship of our Lord she would always cover her head with a shawl type cloth, believing that a maiden ought so honor the almighty God. I admired her because it was contrary to the fashions of the moment, not taught by ours or many evangelical churches anymore. Rather, she "searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17.11, KJV).
Last week, we heard the devastating news that her brother, Jeremiah Small, was killed in Iraq by one of the students he had dedicated his life to help. I did not know the man, but by all reports he was a man of faith, dedication, and honor. I have no doubt of this, for I have known his sister and his aunt.
There will be those who might tell her the grief will pass. It will not. Eight years out she will see someone who looks like him; a passing car will be what he drove; a sudden question will elicit the thought, "I need to call ..." All of these will honor him as much as any inadequate words or ceremony.
There will be those who might tell her they understand. But, unless they too have lost a brother on whom the sun and moon once rose and set, they will not understand.
Such responses are appropriate and right. They are what good people do in the wake of human tragedy. What people are trying to say at a time like this, however it comes out, is really this: I love you, my beautiful, beautiful Sarah.