The Questions of Life and Death

My sister-in-law, Susan is a strong and courageous woman of faith. She read this and asked me to post it in the hopes that it might encourage, comfort, or inspire others. We know that many are walking hard roads with challenges we can’t imagine.

It’s a glorious summer morning as I sit on my brother’s front porch in a wicker rocker. Birds are chattering about new-day things. A bunny is nibbling breakfast in the front yard near the hydrangea and today’s paper waits in the driveway to be picked up. A jogger and a dog-walker pass by.

As a friend says, “This is the Lifiest time of year.”


People open junk mail, play a set of tennis, watch a friend’s wedding video on Facebook, water gardens, laugh at jokes, cut the lawn.

Inside the house my brother dances back and forth with one foot in heaven and one still on earth.


This feels surreal. It can’t be happening. Life and death, and life and Life.

Things beginning, things ending. Things growing, things dying.

I stare at the pictures rotating through my screen-saver. Photos of us in foreign countries – with kids thirsty for clean water in Africa, with survivors of a tsunami in Sri Lanka, with Palestinians in a refugee camp longing for home – the World outside our world.

Every day, people trying to choose Life.

This is a week when, in some ways life is on hold and we’re just waiting; day to day, minute to minute.

We’re simultaneously holding our breath and trying to breathe. 

But in other ways everything is so…normal. We do all the regular stuff and wonder, “How? How can we do life while David seems to be moving towards death?”

I wake up off and on throughout the nights and pray, “God help. Hold. Heal.”

We say “Prayer changes things”, but what we really hope is that prayer will just change “THINGS” and not change US.

This time God seems to want to change us – to make us “Lifier” people with an ear to heaven and an eye on eternity.

When I was in college in Texas in the late 70’s (yes, that long ago…Who’d believe it??), my people were the fun ones who volunteered with me in Young Life leadership. Think skits and raw egg swallowing contests and summer camp and hanging out with students in the high school cafeteria. Silly and ordinary, insecure and overly confident by turns, leaning into everyday grace.

We wore our overalls and said “NBD”, and “What the fat?” and a phrase I’ve been thinking about lately…

“But… HOW ETERNAL IS IT??!!!” we would often say loudly and with a grin.

What are we doing that will really matter forever? What soul work are we doing that will last?

What if we lived on earth as we plan to live in heaven?


So we gather and continue to choose Life in hard and holy ways.

We do the sacred work of holding ice chips to parched lips, and massaging limbs, reading Scripture and praying.


Friends gather around the bed, sharing stories of eternity.

One who was a troubled teen,

a Navajo in ministry to Native Americans,

a former prisoner,

6th and 7th grade boys …

All who know Jesus better because they knew David.

Sacred moments of laughter, tears, and stories of a fruitful life well-lived.

Yes, we have our ears to heaven and our eyes on eternity.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18



  1. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you while you wait for David’s new life to begin.

    • Thank you for sharing this Laura. My Laura and I are in Sri Lanka praying, weeping and remembering Dave. We love him. He has meant so much to us.

  2. Beautiful Laura. I read strength, comfort and hope through your words. I am grateful that He is providing all these things and more to each of you li/oving alongside Dave. Amazing how Dave continues of witnessing God’s amazing grace.

  3. Becky Danielson

    July 15, 2015 at 9:55 AM

    Laura, you and your family continue to be in my prayers. It’s a long, weary road but the joy is in knowing eternal life awaits.
    I am so sorry.
    With much love,

  4. Getting to know Dave this last year, as well as the Johansen family, has been a great honor. My heart is heavy and wish you all peace.

  5. Amazing post. Beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing. “How Eternal is it?” goes right to the heart of those living and presumably sticking around for a while. To be giving through these posts in this time of need is purely from God. God bless you all.

  6. Dear Laura,
    You don’t know me, but I have been reading your blog for the last few years and you have really influenced me. I even have parts of three of the blogs on my fridge door! Your writings have HELPED ME MAKE IT down a road of illness and my faith being challenged like never before! I have had major doubts, anger and pain. But my point is that your being vulnerable to share the good AND bad/hard things in your life has reaped some (early) fruit in mine. I am so sorry for the pain you and your family are experiencing right now as you walk this journey with your brother Dave and his wife. I have lost my mother and sister. I know this journey is ” sacred ground. ” I will pray for you all. Jane

    • Jane I can’t express how encouraging your words are to me. Thank you so much for taking the time to write. I am so, so grateful God has used some words here to strengthen you and remind you you aren’t alone! We all deal with doubts, anger, and pain and need to remind each other that we have a big big God. So glad you’re here!

  7. Thanks to you and Susan for sharing so honestly. I love the phrase you have been using about going from life to Life! That is very helpful and I know it will stick with me. We have hope for eternity but it is so very hard to let go. In the end we are all just walking each other home. Your family is an amazing example of how to do that well. God is good, all the time.

    • Thanks so much Joanne! I know you’ve walked a similar road with people you care about. We keep reminding each other “God is still good.” Sending hugs…

  8. My prayers to you and your family during this difficult time Laura – thank you for sharing your thoughtful perspective and precious journey. My heart aches for you, and rejoices for your sweet brother David, all in the same moment. God Bless you- Liz

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