Monday, September 19, 2011

Living Well

By JoHannah Reardon

I am a professional woman who loves my work and who feels fiercely competitive about the tasks set before me. More than anything, I want to make a difference, and I almost always consider that will happen through the work I do. But a few weeks ago, I attended a memorial that forced me to reflect on what it means to live our lives well.

My brother is much older than I am, and he married my sister-in-law, Donna, when I was still in the womb. So I knew her as long as I knew anyone in my family and felt her love from my earliest days. They lived nearby and included me in many family activities, even taking me on vacation.

Donna never held a job outside of her home. She raised her family and was now looking forward to having an empty nest. Tragically, her oldest child died. Donna wholeheartedly accepted the responsibility of raising her granddaughter, Kara. Fortunately Donna’s own health didn’t fail until Kara grew to adulthood with a family of her own, which brings me to her memorial.

Numerous people shared the impact that Donna had in their lives. My sisters and I composed a poem to commemorate her. One young man talked about how he’d been a hyperactive boy, but that Donna had loved and defended him when others wouldn’t tolerate him. Another woman said that Donna always began their prayer times by saying, “Good morning, Lord!” Others talked about how Donna modeled what it meant to be a faithful Christian.

But the one who tugged my heart most was Kara. Kara said that when Donna was dying, she left work and rushed to her grandma’s bedside. Donna had been extremely restless, but when Kara arrived, my brother said, “It’s okay Donna. Kara is here.” She calmed down immediately and began to breathe peacefully. Kara wondered what to do to help her grandmother, who was like a mom, face this journey into heaven, and could only think of doing what Donna had done for her when she was a small child.

So she climbed into bed with her, tickled her arm, and sang her the childhood songs Donna had sung to her when she was a lone, frightened child. With Kara’s arms tucked around her and her comforting voice in her ear, Donna was able to let go of this life and enter the next one.

I love my work and still hope to make an impact through it, but Donna’s memorial rearranged my priorities. So as I write the last line of this blog post, I’m going to push away from my computer and go see my grandkids.

JoHannah is the managing editor of and a contributing editor to, both divisions of Christianity Today International. She blogs at and has eight e-books on


  1. JoHannah, this is a very good very good reminder of what's truly important. Touching too.

  2. what a beautiful story about the cycle of life. I am sorry for yours, your borhter and Kara's loss. Donna sounds like she was an amazing woman who is resting with the Lord until the Day of Christ, and she is raised up!

  3. Hi Donna - you said that you feel fiercly competitive about the work you do. I have felt that same feeling - but about my family. I was also in the work world. But about the time I had my second child I didn't feel I could keep up the pace with both job a family. So for the last ten years I have been a stay at home. Some of the years I homeschooled but some of them I did not. I was discouraged with how many people I felt looked down on me as a result of this choice. Many of them were in the church. That is why I said I had to be fierce about it. So many tugs take place to pull away from the priority of family. I am so glad that you posted this blog honoring a women who chose the path of staying at home and the value of this choice.