18, No Time to Waste

Epilogue

   Eighteen, No Time to Waste was written one year after Kathi's death. With an aching heart and through many tears, I wrote this book as a memorial to her, as a gift to her many friends, and with hope that it might help fulfill Kathi's dream of "telling everyone everywhere about Jesus." Writing this book brought me a surprisingly therapeutic release, washing my face with cleansing tears as I walked back through her life and dredged up memories that had to be faced and resolved. The death of a child is a shattering experience, so out of the natural order of things. A parent, it seemed to me, should not have to stand at the graveside of a child. Yet when this incomprehensible loss did occur in my life, God showered me with encouragement and sympathy, wonderfully comforting and strengthening me. In time, I discovered that I could pass on this same help and comfort to others.

   Since the book was first published in 1971, letters have arrived from around the world, from bereaved parents pouring out their grief and from mothers who have experienced similar conflicts with their own teen-agers. My own grief has softened as I have been able to rejoice in the truth that "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love him."

   Many people have asked about Dave Wallis, the young man who survived the accident that took Kathi, Mike and John. Dave has been "taking their place," faithfully serving Christ first in Brazil as a missionary, then as a pastor, and presently "in the marketplace." Dave is married, the father of three children, and lives in southern California.

   Throughout the years I have told Kathi's story to hundreds of groups, telling of our mother-daughter conflicts and how God helped us resolve them before He took her to Himself. Through this outreach, I have become acquainted with many other hurting parents. While our circumstances have varied, we have all shared similar human responses of grieving, suffering, and asking "why," whether the loss has been through death or estrangement.

   Many teen-agers have identified with my vivacious, independent daughter — "My parents won't accept me as I am" or "They're trying to put me in their preconceived mold," they write. Many parents, like me, have had a difficult time letting go of their adolescent and adult children. Parents write to express their deep sorrow over their "prodigal" children who have rejected their values and are living in a "far country." I have grown to believe that the death of a Christian child is not the greatest tragedy a parent can experience. There are far deeper hurts than laying a child in the arms of Jesus.

   One of my greatest joys was a call from Kathi's friend Sharon, who excitedly exclaimed that she had come to know Kathi's Jesus. The transformation in Sharon's life has been incredible and complete.

   Janice, a young lady in northern California, wrote to tell of driving past the accident scene, of weeping through the night, of questioning how a loving God could take three young people and leave another severely injured. Subsequently, when she read Kathi's story, she "remembered her childhood faith and recommitted her life to Jesus Christ."

   I received a thrilling call from Elke in Germany, a broken person, alienated from her parents and heavily into drugs. After reading Kathi's story her letters became a lovely and living reflection of her newfound faith.

   Kathi has been physically absent from our family for many years now, yet our memories of her are still vivid racing through the house, waving good-by with a vibrant smile, rushing out the door, and roaring down the street in her red Mustang. Time has healed the tender wounds and given me a wider perspective that has proven the promises of God again and again. No matter how deep the pain, this truth remains clear: God's grace is greater than all our hurts, greater than all our failures, greater than our painfully aching hearts. If we relax in His promises, if we relinquish our anxieties, if we allow our faith to rise to believe His word, He will generously reward us with the wondrous gift of "beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness."

MARGARET JOHNSON
1987

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