Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tips For Triumphant Living -- Choose Joy, Choose Life

On August 13th I drove up the winding North Umpqua Highway to witness the unveiling of a road sign. It marks a final step in a process that began nearly three years ago.

As I drove memories swept through my mind—A phone call at 6:30 AM, two days of sitting in my sister’s living room while people called and others filed through, unbelief that seared broken hearts, buckets of tears, and a trip up the North Umpqua Highway to a crash site where my nineteen-year-old niece had been killed the night before.

The driver of the car was drinking. He survived. Crystal did not.

Family gathered at the site along the river bank, trying to comprehend what had happened and why. Some clambered down the steep bank to sit among blood-stained rocks. There were flowers and a cross placed at the spot.

My sister and I stood side-by-side arms entwined. Anguished tears wet our cheeks. I remember that my sister stomped her foot in defiance against what had happened. As if to say, “No! Not my Crystal!

That was the beginning of a journey. And now, a sign has been put up by the State Highway Department that says, DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE. In Memory of Crystal Wall.

Once more we gathered, only this time it was to draw a line in the sand, so to speak, a place from which to move forward. This was a final step in a list of steps. Now it’s time to move on.

All of us have circumstances that try to hold us back, but there comes a day to stop looking back and to begin looking ahead. There are things in life that cannot be changed and all we can do is to keep living.

I asked my sister to share a snap shot of her journey and she sent this letter to help us all better understand that moving on is not done in strides and sometimes not even in forward motion, but it is progress nonetheless.


It’s so hard to put into “steps” the process of my journey since Crystal died. I don’t know if you could actually give a list of steps and number them 1, 2, 3, etc. so instead I’ll just write the process and hopefully that will be helpful to you. Here goes.

Immediately upon receiving the news I chose to say “God is good all the time”. That gave me perspective and caused me to make my stand. Then came the shock, disbelief, calling my kids and sister and mom and friends, the funeral home, writing the obituary, the burial which was more than I could bear had it not been for the gentle words from Mom reminding me of the love of God as she held me so tightly in her arms, the memorial service—and this was just the first week! When I look back at that week, I am amazed I survived. I was surrounded, however, by a cocoon of love from my family, friends, church family and most of all God.

When everyone went home I tried to enter life and find a “new normal”, but that was impossible. Instead I chose to experience my grief, let it in, express it in whatever way seemed appropriate to me and then depend wholly upon Christ. I made the choice to let life stop for a time as I spent time with my family, at church and in the Word. I set a time frame when I would not work and when I would go back to work. I started saying No to people and became more honest about who I am, realizing “its okay for a Christian to not be okay”. I even determined I would not be involved in ministry other than worship for an entire year. As I allowed myself to feel these things, to grieve, I found it was easier to accept them.

Along with acceptance comes surrender. I had to accept the things I can’t change and, in that, ask God how I could glorify Him in this process. I ranted, raved, threw tantrums over the fact that things didn’t go the way I wanted. In the end, however, I had to say “This is what God has given me and I have to learn to live with it or falter completely. Paul learned to be content in all circumstances and I need to as well.”

Working through the grief wasn’t the only thing I had to deal with. I had a “check list” of things that needed to happen. The trial which was postponed three times and then actually cancelled, the sentencing which was a farce in itself because the guy walked out un-cuffed and arrogant, the insurance settlement and the question of do I sue the guy, and then the sign. For me it was like I needed to check all this stuff off before it would be over. Not that it’s ever over but I needed to be able to move on. I moved on a long time ago, but I needed these things to happen to close this chapter in my life and finally let go of Crystal.

The letting go process has been the hardest. I’ve had to let go of my dreams for her, her dreams for her, our dreams for us and my memories. I had to pack her things, clean out her room, decide what to keep, what to give away. If I had my way, I’d keep everything, but then if I had my way she’d still be here and I wouldn’t have to worry about it. I had to choose joy, choose life and often I had to make that choice several times a day. I’m still walking through that process. What’s done is done and I can’t change it. I can, however, let God use it to mold me and make me into who He wants me to be.

When the sign went up yesterday I felt it is finished. It’s done. “Now I can put the lid on the box and put it away. Not that I won’t take it out from time to time to look inside and remember, but now it can be stored away. It’s done.”

Love you,


Life is not easy, but with God even on the most difficult day we are not alone. He gives us strength for the journey. And as we journey we must let go of wrongs done to us, free our sorrows, shed anger, and release heartache. If we allow these things to rule our lives they will destroy the good work God has planned for us. He has an astonishing purpose for our lives if only we will allow Him to reign in us.

And so as my sister said, choose joy, choose life.

Grace and peace to you from God.



  1. Bonnie, please thank your sister for sharing that. It was valuable because it was heartfelt.

  2. Hey, Christina, thanks for your comment. I'll make sure tell my sister thanks from you.