How Do You Choose Life in the Midst of Death?

Friends, I share this in the hopes that it will encourage those of you, in particular, who have dealt with loss this year.


Dear Baby David,

It’s a lilac-blooming, cut-grass wafting, bike-riding spring season here. Life is bursting out everywhere.

Today is your birthday. It’s also Mother’s Day – a cruel irony for Mom.

A year ago you were in the midst of the fight for your earthly life. And then in two months it was over.

You’ve been gone from our sight since July 18th, but you continue to show up when I see a mischievous grin, or an arms-open-wide welcome, the painting of a fly-fisherman, a dad playing ball with his kids, a question that is asked in order to take a faith conversation beyond the surface…

It’s still hard to comprehend that you are not physically here with us. As the year progresses, we link arms as a family, stumbling together through the holidays and everydays. The thing we share is our steadfast love of you and each other. But we each grieve and process in different ways. We’re trying to listen deeply to each other.

I think when someone we crazy-love dies (husband, dad, brother, son) the biggest challenge is continuing to choose Life.

First of all, we just. don’t. WANT. to. We want to wake up and have you grilling on the patio like you should be. We don’t want to let you go – as if we could, by sheer will pull you back in like a kite that has been taken out of sight by the wind.

Also, it feels somehow that letting go and envisioning a new life without you in it is wrong…a betrayal. Like doing that somehow negates our love and devotion to you…How can we possibly continue without a vital, beloved piece of our lives?

But here’s the thing that helps me. In the everyday ordinary stuff and even as you were dying, you chose Life.


You chose Life first and foremost because you chose Jesus, affirming that He loves and forgives us, and as you always said, “He’s the good Author of our story.”

And then you chose life by seeing the image of Jesus in others, and serving those who felt like their life was over, and by laughing easily at yourself, and by your delight in His creation.

So we continue to choose Life even in the midst of death.

Susan is both devastated and courageous.

The tension between acceptance and the temptation to be stuck wallowing forever is real, but she has taken monumental steps in choosing Life.

She can be brave because you affirmed every day that she is capable of doing hard things. You would be so proud of her just as we are.

  • She does the hard dance of stretching herself, but knows when she needs to withdraw and rest with Jesus.
  • Her faith remains authentic and vibrant, but she hasn’t been able to go back to church without you and she knows that’s ok in this season.
  • She goes back into cancer wards with Sophia the wonder dog to bring comfort in painful situations she is all too familiar with.


  • She organized Team Dave Strong and Courageous to raise money for Melanoma research.


  • She is painting the downstairs a lighter color to lighten her mood.
  • She put together the Dave Johansen Memorial Leadership Lending Library at your office, so you are continuing to mentor others even in your absence.
  • She seeks grief support and community, but isn’t afraid to say what is helpful and what isn’t, what’s too soon, what’s uncomfortable, and what works. She recently has connected with a group of young widows started by another person YOU influenced with your life.
  • And she continues to seek glimpses of the Eternal. This was what she posted yesterday.


Loss hurts, but love wins when we continue to choose Life. You probably already know all this, but we’re trying down here. We’re really trying.


Your “Sweet sis”



  1. Karen Cooper

    May 7, 2016 at 3:07 PM

    Beautifully stated….and resonates with my heart and the losses in my life, and choosing life. Thanks Laura.

    • Thanks so much, Karen. I’m so grateful for our TCU friend community and the gift of seeing God’s faithfulness in our lives over the years.

  2. Laura, I’m a big Brené Brown fan and reading yet another one of her books right now. She talks a lot about vulnerability and the willingness to be ready to be open. The positivity in the midst of pain that you show by sharing these thoughts and memories and articulating how to cope with them, is so helpful to others. Thanks for sharing. Blessings to you and your brother’s family! Love, Joanne xxx

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