John Adams Russell

October 4, 1944 – September 23, 2017

What I wrote about John this weekend on Instagram:

The world lost one of the greats yesterday, John Adams Russell. It was my privilege and honor to be John’s third and final daughter-in-law and to spend 19 years in the light of his love. John was fiercely committed to his family and one of the great joys of my life is knowing how close his relationships were with my children, who he called Whitty and My Amazing Grace. John received a life-saving heart transplant almost 15 years ago and since then (and probably before, but my knowledge isn’t as good) he embodied grace and gratitude. While he faced several health challenges over the last 15 years I never once heard him complain. John loved this wonderful world. He truly appreciated both the big, glittering moments (dinner atop the Eiffel Tower, having his whole family gathered for his and Marti’s 50th anniversary) and the small, quiet ones (a simple dinner with Marti on the back porch in Florida, a FaceTime exchange with a grandchild). He fought hard to stay here a long time and we are all thankful for the memories that allowed us to make. His awareness of his great good fortune and his loyal love of family are examples to me and will be all the days of my life. Rest in peace and godspeed, John. We love you and always will.


I have so, so many wonderful photographs of John.  The one above may be my favorite.  Like me, he liked to take photographs, and many of the pictures I prize from family celebrations came from him.  He was also an avid texter – Grace taught him how to use emojis, and we often joked she had created a monster.  I still have several text strings from him on my phone, and I don’t think I’ll ever erase them.  He was present and he was engaged and he was absolutely a vivid, bright, huge part of our lives.  His loss leave a huge hole.  This is the first thing I haven’t been remotely able to protect Grace and Whit from, and they are mourning.  We all are.

All we can do is focus on the immense gratitude we feel for his life, and our keen awareness that he got almost 15 extra years because of a gracious heart donor and his or her family (be an organ donor!!!) and because of his fierce fight.  He stayed here because he was determined to, of that I feel sure.  I’m so thankful he did.  He knew five grandchildren he wouldn’t have otherwise, and experienced more joys than we can count.

One of the primary lessons for me of these sad and difficult days is that we must say what we feel no matter what.  John died suddenly at the end, and did not have the opportunity to say formal goodbyes to a lot of people.  There’s sorrow in that, yes, but what it’s made us consider is that nobody, not a single person to my knowledge, was unsure how John felt about them.  He was an emotive and expressive man who said “I love you” a lot and the fact that my children and husband know without equivocation how he felt about them is a huge gift.  Don’t wait to say how you feel.

I’ve written a lot about John, but the piece that most specifically recounts the aftermath of his heart transplant is here, at Brain, Child. We were just so fortunate.  So lucky.  So blessed.  Yes, we were.  And we knew it.  And so did he.  What an enormous gift.

It is hard to choose favorites of my many photographs, so I wanted to include the pictures I have of the first time John met Grace and Whit. They adored him.

October 26, 2002.  A month before his heart transplant, and he basically broke out of MGH to come see Grace.

Easter 2005.  Whit was 2 months old and as you can see delighted to meet his grandfather.  This may be the only photo I have of Whit with Grandpa where he is not grinning ear to ear.

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  1. Nadine
    Posted September 26, 2017 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    I am very sorry for your loss, and am thinking of you and your family. He sounds like a very special, radiant person, with a wonderful family who loved him wholeheartedly.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you. He was, and we are so lucky. xox

  2. Posted September 26, 2017 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Deepest condolences. It is so wonderful that someone else’s generosity gave him an extra 15 years so he could watch Grace and Whit grow up.

    admin Reply:

    It absolutely is. We never fail to remember that. xox

  3. Posted September 26, 2017 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Been thinking about you all. Love upon you.

  4. Janet
    Posted September 26, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    So sorry for your loss Lindsey, he sounds like he was a wonderful husband, father, grandpa and friend and will be missed by many. Hoping you all are comforted by your happy memories and loads of photos. ~xo

  5. Posted September 26, 2017 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    I am so sorry for your loss. What a wonderful wonderful man xx

  6. Pamela
    Posted September 26, 2017 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m so sorry Lindsey. This is such a beautiful tribute. What a wonderful man!

  7. Posted September 27, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    What a gorgeous tribute to a wonderful man. I’m so sorry for your loss and so glad you had those extra 15 years together. xo

  8. Posted September 27, 2017 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Lindsey, this was such a descriptive and beautiful tribute. I am close to my father-in-law and so much of what you said reminds me of him. I can imagine the loss that you and your kids (and of course Matt) feel right now. As we say in the Jewish tradition, may his memory be for a blessing.

  9. Posted September 28, 2017 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    John sounds like such a wonderful man. Thank you for letting us get to know him. Sending love to you all.