Top Ten Gifts I’ve Received from Johnny’s Death

On the two-month anniversary of Johnny’s death (two days ago), John and I attended a grief group for suicide survivors at our local hospital. The facilitator wanted to end “on a positive note” and asked us what gift we’ve received or good that has come from our loved one’s death. I thought that was a pretty daring/odd/difficult question, and everyone looked at her a bit blankly. I mumbled something generic like I was grateful for the people in this group who are willing to share their pain with strangers. But the question stuck with me, and I thought about it all day yesterday. I realized there are MANY gifts I’ve received as a result of Johnny’s death, and I wanted to share them with you in the hope they help you think about the gifts you’ve received in your grief or loss. Here are my top 10 gifts:

  1. I’ve draw closer to the Lord and have deeply experienced Psalm 34:18, which we printed on the wristbands we gave out at Johnny’s memorial service: “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” I know Jesus has my son in his arms, and we will be reunited with Johnny again. All is forgiven, and Johnny is healed. There’s no greater comfort.
  2. My family has drawn even closer in our grief. My husband John is my rock, and our two living children are my heart. Johnny will always be part of our family of five.
  3. We’ve experienced the extreme love and comfort of an incredible community of family, friends, clients, and colleagues, who have shown up for us in a big way and lifted us up with prayers, meals, donations, time, notes, and mementos.
  4. Two people have already received the gift of sight from Johnny’s donation of his corneas: a 65-year-old woman in South Dakota and an 83-year-old man in Ireland. I wrote long letters to them and told them about all the wonderful sights Johnny had seen through those lenses.
  5. An incredible army of friends, old and new, are helping us raise awareness of suicide and bring it #outofthedarkness. You can join Johnny’s team in helping us stop the stigma and prevent more senseless deaths. There are too many suicides, and I’ve discovered suicide has impacted almost every family in some way. We will walk on April 26 with his photo on our t-shirts.
  6. Lives are being saved, as we encourage adults to talk to their children about the dangers of today’s high-potency marijuana on the developing adolescent mind. I’ve received so many stories about the real, open conversations that are being had between parents and children. I’ve been able to personally share Johnny’s story with some teenagers and young adults and hopefully reach them. Read about Johnny’s story at www.momsstrong.org.
  7. An amazing force of 223 Ambassadors (so far) are working to keep Johnny’s spirit alive by spreading the 5 Values he thought were the most important. Join Johnny’s Ambassadors and tell your story about what happened when you reached out to help others.
  8. Our daughter Meagan adopted Johnny’s beagle puppy, Benji, and has a new best friend. There is indeed a silver lining in everything. God doesn’t close a door without opening a window.
  9. We have greater sensitivity toward those who are grieving and suffering losses of all kinds – not everyone is yippy skippy. Conversely, we love celebrating happiness in others’ lives as well.
  10. We’ve met some incredible people in our grief groups and have been introduced to friends of friends personally and on Facebook, whom we otherwise wouldn’t have met. We are blessed to make these connections and look forward to seeing what plans the Lord has in store and how He will make good come from Johnny’s death.

So, looking back, what is a GIFT you received after a loss you experienced? What good has come from your grief? This experience has helped me heal immensely. Please share your story about what happened here!

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