Instead of waiting any longer, Russell and her now-husband Brand Newland got married on St. Patrick’s Day in Texas with just an officiant by their side.
Here, Russell writes in her own words the inspiring message of hope she's found in these challenging times.
I waited 43 years to get married.
Some say that’s a long time. I would have waited as long as it took to find Brand. But now that I’ve found him, I didn’t want to wait a second more.
We got married today on what the Irish consider the luckiest day of the year. In a green-filled park. By ourselves. With a retired judge (6 feet away of course).
Never could I have imagined that I would spend a year of my life planning a wedding for my friends and family in Mexico only to have it canceled because of a global pandemic.
But it’s okay and I’m okay.
Here’s the reason why.
The universe prepared me for this moment for a long time. And I listened.
My family lost everything we owned in Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I learned to let go of material things.
My mom was diagnosed with cancer when I was 29 and died a few years later.
I learned that life is fragile.
Shortly after, I was diagnosed with cancer and self-quarantined for 9 months because my WBC [white blood cell] count was dangerously low.
I learned that I can be alone and away from social interaction for a long time.
After I completed my cancer treatment, I got Lhermitte’s sign and couldn’t walk without being shocked for a year.
I learned how to be patient.
While I am disappointed and sad about what’s happening for not just me, but for our world, I know I will emerge from this with new lessons for navigating this sometimes challenging but equally beautiful life I’ve been given.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from these unfortunate events is that when things are out of my control, I still have a choice in how I respond.
I choose Love.
Love for our family and friends who are disappointed they aren’t able to attend our wedding.
Love for those who are being impacted in far greater ways than a wedding weekend in Mexico.
Love for all the people who are having to make decisions that impact millions of people.
Love for the medical professionals who are putting themselves in harm’s way to serve others.
Love for the children who just lost the school meals that they count on as their only guaranteed meals each day.
Love for small business owners and restaurants who have to shut their doors and thus shut off their income source.
Love for our elderly in nursing homes who were told they don’t get to have any visitors.
Love for high school and college seniors who, unknowingly, just played their last games of their sports careers.
Love for teachers who are scrambling to rewrite their curriculum and figure out how to offer online classes.
Love for all those who are suffering – whether it be with coronavirus, flu, cancer, fear, anxiety, depression, economic distress, or any other ailment.
And love for Brand Alexander Newland who, today, I promised to love for the rest of my life.