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Missing Christopher

July 24th, 2011 Posted in sermons

I wish you could have known my son, Christopher David Laurie.
Three years ago he left us unexpectedly.
Our hearts are still heavy with sorrow that is somehow mixed with the joy of knowing we will see him again.
Below is something my wife wrote about our son.
I have spoken on this many times, but my wife has not.
What she has written is honest and honoring to God and my son’s memory.
I encourage you to read it.

Here is a video that we prepared about Christopher’s life as well.

Missing Christopher
By Cathe Laurie

July 24, 2008

The day broke, in the cool morning air. The sun shone brilliantly as a breeze stirred in the camphor tress that line the streets of our neighborhood. It was shaping up to be a perfect day, the kind of day on which young moms take their children to the beach, and grandmothers love to remember.

I woke early, made the bed, changed into my running clothes, tied on my Nikes. I was headed out for a quick early run. Life was good. Our firstborn son had a beautiful wife who knew Jesus as her Savior, and in the past year even her mother had come to faith. I was happy.

I looked forward to Thursdays when my daughter-in-law Brittany and her mom Sheryll would come over for a time of Bible study. “Papa” Greg would take Stella for lunch so we could pray and read together. It was good.

Our “perfect day” would last for only a few measured minutes longer, as we were about to face a tragedy that would break in like a cruel thief.

We had been studying through the book of Philippians. That morning, the verse I’d set for our time together would be Paul’s famous passionate statement in chapter 3, verse 10. “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death…” Little did we realize we would have a crash course on the subject. Only this time, I would no longer be guiding the discussion…He would.

My son was 33 years old. Somewhere on the 91 Freeway between Green River and Serfas Club Drive, Christopher’s life on earth would end. He had a daughter who was to celebrate her second birthday in 4 days, and another baby girl due in 4 months. Her party would be cancelled, and for many months time would stand still.

It felt like God had taken a big eraser and cleaned the chalkboard of my dreams. He would draw a different picture than the one I had in mind. The colors would be darker and more somber, the lines less straight and crisp. Thomas Merton is said to have written, “God draws straight with crooked lines.” It’s true.

It is unimaginable planning your son’s memorial service, choosing a coffin, a gravesite, an inscription; unimaginable standing in the delivery room watching the birth of his second child without him there. Every holiday, anniversary, birthday…parts of me have been broken…and broken again.

We have never suffered more, cried more, trusted more, or grown more. Getting up in the morning and going to bed at night required strength we didn’t have, and only God could give. And He did.

You may have heard people who suffer say things like, “It feels like a punch in the stomach.” I can tell you the emotional pain you face one second after you wake knocks the wind out of you. My first thought is, “Christopher is gone. It isn’t a bad dream. Oh God, help.”

The pain hasn’t gone away, it’s changed. Trauma over time hurts differently, unfolding and morphing unexpectedly. I stopped asking, “Why?” because I knew that even if I heard the answer, it would be too big for me to wrap my mind around. “How unsearchable are His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out.”

I do know the Bible is full of stories that helped me; stories of those who could teach me how to live in pain. I suggest you learn them and take notes. They flooded my mind and instructed my heart that dark day.

In the Book of Acts we read the story of how Simon Peter was released from prison but in the same chapter, the Apostle James was beheaded. Hebrews 11 is full of contrasts. Some women received back their dead, raised to life. Some stopped the mouths of lions while others were tortured, put to death by stoning. None of us know how our lives or the lives of those we love will play out.

But I can say God is good. I have heard the Lord Jesus’ calming voice and felt His nearness. I can stand beside Mary, His mother, at the foot of the cross and hear His cry, “My God, My God, why…?” I can imagine the tears our Lord, too, has tasted at the tomb of His friend Lazarus, as he prayed and sweat blood, and cried alone in the garden of Gethsemane. I have a God who suffered. And for that reason He is my greatest Comforter. He knows what I feel and far, far more He is able to give me strength I need every day. For this I love Him more.

Just days after the Lord took Christopher home, we received a card from Warren Wiersbe that I keep in my journal. I read it again today on the eve of Christopher’s anniversary.

“Dear Greg and Cathe,

“As God’s children we live on promises not explanations, and you know the promises as well as we do. When we arrive in Heaven we will hear the Explanations, accept them and say, ‘May the Lord be glorified.’

“Meanwhile, we continue to walk by faith, asking God to help us comfort others, lest our own tears be wasted.

“Your people will detect a new tone in your ministries, whether you sense it or not, and the Lord will accomplish unusual things. Trust Him. Betty and I shall be wrapping our arms around you as we pray for you. It takes time to digest grief, so be patient with yourselves and with the Lord. Jesus saves the best wine for last.”

It is all true.

We have lived on promises.

We have no tidy explanations.

We have accepted this, and have seen the Lord glorified in unexpected ways.

We have been comforted, and have comforted countless others.

We have not wasted our tears.

There has been a new tone in our ministries.

God has done unusual things.

We continue to trust Him as we “digest” our grief.

Jesus does save the best wine for last.

Until then, I will wait for that day… I can almost taste it now.

38 Responses to “Missing Christopher”

  1. Terry says:

    My son Luke went to be with the Lord just about 5 months ago. He was 19 years old and was with the Marines. I wrote this poem based on something I heard Greg say once

    To Luke:

    Everyday is a step away
    from when I saw your face
    yet everyday is closer still
    to that day when we embrace

    For all my wishes, hopes and dreams
    can never bring you here
    but I know each day as I step away
    I am heading near

    To Heavens Glory that lights your face
    will be the Luke I see
    then all the pain, grief and tears
    will no longer abide in me

    For the pain is real and tries to steal
    the joy I have inside
    but I know that faith will win this fight
    on the very day I die

    But right now it seems forever
    so far far away
    but even if it’s a thousand years
    It’s a price I’d gladly pay

    Because everyday is closer to
    the day that we embrace

    I Love you,
    Dad

  2. Kathy Gonzalez del Rio says:

    Dear Laurie family,

    My son was killed in a motorcycle accident in November 2009. He was 22 yrs old and on fire for Jesus, so I can truly share in your pain. I remember dropping to my knees after the coroner left and begging God to be glorified in this situation, because it was more than I could handle.

    I have read your book, “Hope for Hurting Hearts” several times and for a while it was my life line(along side of the bible). I have recommended it to other hurting parents that have crossed my path.

    I can say with you that God is good and has been faithful through these long months. I also have a treasure in heaven and look forward to the day I am reunited with my son.

    Thank you for your ministry and God Bless

  3. Carmel Wardle says:

    Dear Pastor Greg & Cathe,
    I found you both in my car while going around a corner, searching radio stations. Prior to that moment I had been going through hurt with my mom trying to understand life events. Greg that day I found our Lords message coming to me through you during your service answering my questions that no one else knew I had but him. I often wondered how it came to be that a Pastor so many miles away would come through my car radio that normally would not pick up a clear signal provide such a clear message to me that day and many days to follow. I found you and your family shortly prior to the loss of your son and being a new mother myself, I could not even imagine how or where you start to pick up the pieces. Well, here I am three years later facing the loss of my child on June 24, 2011 and also holding the hand of my friend that is now facing the loss of her fourth child and only daughter (she is due the first part of October). Pastor Greg, I cannot thank you enough for sharing with everyone your thoughts, emotions and love for our lord during one of your darkest hours. The love for your son and the gifts that Christopher has brought so many of us has allowed us to know…we are not alone. Cathe, your message above is spoken with honest words that so many woman have faced with the loss of a child. On Friday my coworker and I shared tears as she asked questions and said to me she could not understand how this could be happening and at times she blames herself as many mothers do. She has shared with me, that after all this she feels her faith is being pulled away from her. Cathe, I have printed this page to give to my friend and though it has brought many tears to my eyes this morning, your truth will help her in many ways. I and I know so many are honored and give thanks for your words shared here. You have brought words of healing for so many of us and I can’t thank you enough.

    Southern Oregon Mom

  4. Tami in OC says:

    Dear Pastor Greg & Cathe,

    I will always remember where I was when I heard the news of Christopher’s sudden departure. I hung-up the phone, went upstairs, and knelt before God at the foot of my bed. I hugged my Bible tightly–as though I were hugging God Himself–as I wept profusely. I prayed fervently with all that is within me: “Lord, please, comfort the Laurie family. Be with them right now, wherever they are. I wish I could hold Pastor Greg; please, Lord, let me just hold him.” God heard me that morning, because I see His comfort in all of you. AND He even allowed me to hug you Pastor Greg, at the memorial service, in the Fellowship Hall. THANK YOU for letting me comfort you, with as much love as I could give. Your eyes were red from crying, and I wanted with all my heart to take this pain away from you. I still weep with you today Pastor Greg and Cathe.

    Thank you for being so open with your grief. Your honest and real feelings are helping so many people. Christopher’s departure has shaken the church, penetrated the hearts of even non-believers, and set your ministry on zealous fire for the Lord. YOUR SUFFERING AND TEARS HAVE NOT BEEN WASTED. TO GOD BE THE GLORY.

  5. Rod Baker says:

    Greg and Cathe:

    As you know I was with you guys and Christopher and his beautiful family at Wellington NZ not long before he was ‘taken home’. I truly value those few days where I was able to get to know him for the fine family man and man of God that he was. Cathe, your words here are such a measure of your love for Christopher and also the Lord. I was really blessed to spend some invaluable quality time with you both just a few weeks ago in Auckland and to hear from you both how Christopher’s death had focused you on being even more determined to use every possible opportunity to share the gospel with those who need it most. You have just done that again with with these heartfelt and powerful words. I shared with you then the effect that Christopher’s death had on me and I need not re visit that here, but thank God that I was able to speak to you personally about it and be greatly encouraged by you both. I lost my twin brother to cancer about the same time as Christopher was taken, but having my own family about his age cannot comprehend what it must be like to lose one of them. You both are such a tower of strength and are so ‘real’, and that come across in all you say and do. Love you guys and my prayers are with you always. Rod.

  6. Felicia says:

    Dear Pastor Greg:

    I was watching the “Best of TBN” and you shared the story of your son Christopher. What’s amazing is that my brother, whose name is Greg also transitioned in an auto accident trying to help someone July 18th of 2008. I pray my Mother’s strength because Greg is also the oldest and I have another brother who passed 16 years prior to him. I’m the youngest but I can see how God has used both situations to usher me into my calling/purpose. I feel a sense of closeness due to the similarities; therefore, I will keep you and your family in prayer and continue to pursue the Kingdom and set the captives free!! God bless you! Love, Felicia

  7. Carine Waters says:

    Dear Laurie family;
    I pray to god that your family continue to be bless and given the strength and continue with the mission which was ordain by god. I want to also remind you that there are many individuals who were touched by the message given about your son. Many people think that if a pastor and his family are going through hard times that there is something wrong with the ministry. Well they are wrong,you are human just like us, and when you get cut you bleed also. Please know that we are & always will pray for you & your family. For we are family & we love you & thank you again for god blessed you and you shared your blessing with all of us.

  8. Lori says:

    Thank you for sharing this today…
    I know you are a blessing for those who have gone through this or something similar with their families…. I can’t imagine it and you should celebrate every day that you are a lesson of strength and encouragement to them.
    Me ? , I am thankful because the difficult time we have, as parents, setting our kids on the right path as they grow into adults…… My blessing is that you bring out how amazingly special it is to have my son , here in my life with me!!!
    Thank you
    Dave and Cathy’s sister Lori

  9. Sue Hotton says:

    Greg and Cathe…I have listened to your radio station in Chicago for at least 8 years. In 2005, Pam & John, my sister and brother-in-law died in a motorcycle accident…you understand the pain of losing someone you love. God, in his merciful way, brought me to Him through your radio, growth group and a small church in my town, all in preparation for that dreadful day. When your son died, I grieved for you both, more than you could know I also knew that our Father in heaven would protect your hearts and give you what you needed when you needed it. Pam and John were my daughter’s Aunt and Uncle but more importantly her anchor when she experienced storms in her life. Their death rocked her world. She did not know Jesus as we do and I prayed that someday she would. Greg, last year my daughter came with me to your Harvest Crusade in Chicago and she went down on the floor and received your Start Bible. Who knows if that day would have came when it did if it was not for our deep loss, the words you shared that night (Sunday) and God being the loving Father He is. Cathe…you are right, the tone of your ministry has changed. I have heard the difference. Greg, thank you for your continued strength and passion for sharing the gospel.

  10. Marcy Smith says:

    Dear Laurie family I knew your son was taken to glory, but I never seen him before. thanks so much for this video it only reinforced my love for your family & ministry. also it reminds me that our job is to teach our children all about the ways of our Lord. I can see from the video, that you & Sister Laurie did just that. You have a beautiful family & I pray that you will have peace knowing you will see your sweet son Christopher again. God Bless, Sis Marcy Smith

  11. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for opening up your heart and sharing this beautiful blog with us. God Bless You!

  12. Antoinette "Toni" Canzanese-Mercado says:

    I lost my little brother Christopher Canzanese on June 27, 2010. Initially we were told he was the victim of a hit and run driver. It’s been a little over a year. My mother has come to live with us and I can see the sorrow and joy at the same time in her eyes when we mention Chris. He was only 22. I miss him so much! I saw you, Pastor Greg, at your Harvest Crusade in 2008 in Philly. I couldn’t imagine how you could go on. I thought to myself “through this tragedy he’ll reach thousands”. This letter has helped me. We’ll all meet our Chistophers one day again. I have another reason to look forward to going to Heaven. Just remember… OUR LOSS IS HEAVEN’S GAIN! Hope to meet yous in person someday, Toni Canzanese – Mercado.

  13. Dinis says:

    My Brother in Christ… just to say we are one in the body of Christ… we are a family together wherever we live… so, your pain’s are also my pain’s… and I pray for you… in Portugal with God that loves so much His children’s… a brother that listen and cares of you and yours mission…

  14. barb says:

    … Laurie family… I’m praying for you all.

  15. barb says:

    Dear Laurie Family,

    Thank you for openly sharing the grieving process of your loss. Healing. Your story. I met a young lady, Amy. She lost a close relative who was 22 yrs of age. She has stepped back from her faith but has not stopped believing in God. I’m printing what Cathe wrote about Christopher for Amy. I gave Amy a Harvest flyer. I pray God does a work in Amy’s life.

    Thank you and love,
    barb

  16. Lori Worley says:

    Thank you so much for sharing Cathe’s words. I can relate to so much of what she says. Our firstborn son, Matthew, unexpectedly departed from this earth on July 26, 2009, so we just passed the 2 yr mark. He was 23. It seems that we miss him even more with each passing day. God is so good & so faithful–He continues to meet us right where we are, esp. in our darkest moments. And I have been amazed at the opportunities God has opened up for me recently to encourage grieving mothers… Thank you so much for your encouragement. I subscribe to your online daily devotions, & I also read “Daily Hope For Hurting Hearts” regularly. My husband & I read “Hope For Hurting Hearts” together this past year, & I have recommended it to many others. Just in the past month, I have been made aware of 2 pastors who’s young sons have departed from this earth unexpectedly. One was 26; the other was 19. So many young men are being called Home–it makes me think God must have a big plan for them up in Heaven!!! May God continue to bless you & your family with His comfort, as I know the pain of missing Christopher will always be with you this side of Heaven… Thank you again for sharing Cathe’s honest words–and thank you for sharing your heart with honesty, as well. Continued prayers for y’all–and I hope you will pray for us, as well. Grief is a hard road–a long journey. At 2 yrs, sometimes I feel as if we’ve only just begun… I’m so thankful that I can feel my Heavenly Father’s presence–it’s such a comfort to know that He is with us every step of the way!!! In His Love, lori

  17. Jessica says:

    This will be my first year visiting Harvest with my husband Jason. We were recently recommitted to the Lord and have awakened the Holy Spirit that is within us. This past June my family celebrated the 6th anniversary of my Father’s passing. Up until i gave myself back to the Lord I found myself angry; angry fro him taking him from me, not letting me say goodbye to him, not walking me down the aisle in my wedding, and not being able to meet his first Grandson. I realize now that I don’t need to be angry. I need to trust in the Lord that what he did was not to hurt me or my family but to stop my Dad from hurting. I look to my dad with envy now, because he is with the Lord and that is where I can’t wait to be. I understand the pain and heartache and see how unbearable it might be at times, but we must all trust in the Lord that he knows what he is doing and we are to follow!! The video of Christopher’s life was amazing and how awesome it was to see a man that touched so many others lives and still does to this day!! Thank you for sharing that with me and with everyone!!
    God Bless

  18. Tammy Lara says:

    Dear Laurie Family,
    Little did I know that 20 days later, when Christopher left to be with the Lord that my family and I would experience such a loss… My sister Monica Jo, 27 years old, would take her life… She struggled with anorexia since she was 15 years old. She came to Christ first when she was just 15 and the family followed, for we were Catholic. I learned of the loss of my sister during the first day of class during second period, for I’m a teacher at a local high school. I can still remember the phone call, with 32 students sitting in my classroom… I thank God that my family and I have Christ in our lives during this devastating time, for HE is so faithful and daily is healing our broken hearts. I just want to let you know that your book, “Hope For Hurting Hearts” has been a great comfort for my parents, I bought two books, one for my Mom & one for my Dad, at Calvary’s book store. Those books have been passed along to others who have lost loved ones and just this year I bought 3 more books for friends who have lost Mothers, Brothers, and Sons. For we know that Gods word will never return void (Isaiah 55:11) Monica Jo’s headstone reads: Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace & not of evil, to give you a future & a hope…” Thank you for your ministry–Tammy

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