Sunday, June 8, 2014

Remembering Donna Beth

A year ago today my cousin, Donna Beth Johnson Short, passed into the presence of the Lord after a short, but valiant fight with cancer. We had been in Bolivia just eight months, but I asked Rudi if we could go home for a short time for the memorial service. The price on airplane tickets was within our price range, so within three days of Donna Beth's passing we were on our way up to the U.S. Just Rudi and I could go, so the children were left in the capable hands of three of CDA's volunteers and Tia Techy. I wanted to honor my cousin by writing this blog about her and her memorial!

The morning after Donna Beth's death last year I wrote the following paragraphs about some of who Donna Beth is and what our relationship meant to me. I wanted to share it with you all on this "anniversary" of her going to be with the Lord!

Donna Beth is my "double cousin" and is practically like one of my sisters. My mother and her mother are sisters, and my father and her father are brothers. We grew up in Los Angeles, on adjoining properties. It felt like we saw them nearly every day of the week and always at birthdays, church, and Wednesday Night meetings. Her family has seven children and ours has eight. Each of us had our "own" cousin our age, except Wade my younger brother, as he came late to the party (but was worth the wait!). As the oldest in her family she was "Warren's cousin", although I think that she and my older sister Carrie were closer as they got older because of the "girl factor"!  At a family reunion about eight years ago, Donna Beth and I were sitting next to each other and she looked at my arms and gasped "Carla, you have my exact arms and hands. I have never seen anyone who had arms and hands just like mine". I have to admit that I did not think of my arms and hands as my finest virtues! But I have been thinking about that comment a lot the past few months and feeling like I have a part of my cousin with me all the time that I can remember her by. We "Johnson Double Cousins" have a lot in common with both genetics (We all can at times talk LOUD and LOTS and are ALWAYS right, of course!) and loads of childhood memories together. I know I have always been proud of being in "the club" that I was born into and to lose one of our top team members is why I am so sad. Donna Beth had to grow up at a young age because my Aunt Linda went through some very hard times and was not able to care for her family at times. Donna Beth never lost her joy or her zest for life. She really was impossible to get down for very long and had a very deep faith in the Lord that was very real. While we have lived far apart  since we have been married (both of us got married in 1995!) because of this we seldom saw each other over the past years, but whenever we got together or talked, I always left feeling loved and appreciated by Donna Beth. 
I was awake a lot last night crying and praying and just generally asking why. About six weeks ago I felt that the Lord had told me that Donna was going to live through this and not die at this time. What I was really questioning was why I hadn't heard from the Lord right. I then began to contemplate death for the believer and I thought of the scripture John 11:25 that says, "Jesus said unto her, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he LIVE and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall NEVER die." Of course, our bodies die, but our souls, the part that goes to be with the Lord, will NEVER die because we are His. What an amazing promise. What an amazing hope. I also began to sing the song "Because He Lives". "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, because He lives all fear is gone, because I know who holds the future and life is worth the living just because He lives". What a beginning for my cousin, what a glorious dawning for her precious soul. While the grieving has just begun for her husband and children and those who are with her everyday, it is a GOOD day for my cousin. Actually, the best she could ever have. So while this week I lost to this earth a person who I would have liked to have held onto a little longer. I KNOW with certainty that heaven gained a precious soul that I will join one day to praise and glorify our Saviour, who made the way for us through the sacrifice of his perfect life on earth, his death, and his glorious triumph over death through his resurrection from the dead. It has not been easy to be so far away from home and my loved ones during this time. Please know that I am with each one of you in spirit. Whenever someone close to my heart passes into glory, I am reminded afresh of the thankfulness I have for our glorious hope. "...Sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him."

We left on a Tuesday night and spent the night in the Santa Cruz airport in front of the Subway and "Starlite Coffee". We got a kick out of the imitation Starbucks, only in Bolivia. 
Starbucks knock off!

Sunrise from the airplane!
We rented a spiffy little car and drove out to Eric and Meriwyn's (Rudi's sister) house.
It was incredible to see family and be able to spend some short but quality time with them. It was amazing how much the kids had grown! We did some shopping with them and also went out for Mexican food, the food we miss the most in Bolivia! It was also great to be out on their farm and enjoy our five nieces and nephews.
Jesse, Meriwyn(Prego w/ Roseanna), Leah, Haddie, Me, and Dwight 
 After being with Eric and Meriwyn and their family, we headed down to visit my brother David and his wife Jodi and family of seven! We spent some time with them at their house and then drove up the California coast together with them. We stopped at AJ Spurs for an all American Steak dinner!!
David and Jodi and Family
 The memorial was held at Donna Beth's parents home in Atascadero. The folks who own the place next door to my Uncle Allan and Aunt Linda allowed us to stay in their vacation home while we were there. It was gorgeous and had a gigantic bathroom with a shower head the size of a dinner plate. Very therapeutic
for this bath/shower starved person!!

Saturday was the day of the memorial. It was a beautiful day in every way. Donna did not want a somber occasion. She wanted us to celebrate her "promotion" to heaven! She wanted everyone to dress brightly and she wanted bright flowers and balloons. She would have loved the celebration we had in her honor. 

Donna Beth- May 25, 1967- June 8, 2013
 One thing that Donna Beth loved to say was "God is good, all the time, all the time, God is good".

A highlight for me was being able to sing at the memorial with some of my aunts and cousins. The song we sang was one that Donna Beth sang with her three sisters in four part harmony. Pictured below from left to right, Aunt Ruthie, Cousin Brenda(Donna's sister), Cousin Karen, Cousin Janeen, Aunt Jeanette, Cousin Laura, My Sister Carrie, Cousin Lois (Donna's sister), Cousin Sherry (Donna's sister), and Me! 
"Sheltered in the Arms of God"
 When Ferlin, Donna's husband, and their three children sang there was not a dry eye in the house. These children are a tribute to the great mother that Donna Beth was. It comforts my heart that my cousin, Brenda, Donna's sister is able to be a "second" mother to them. They are all doing well a year later.
Donna's husband, Ferlin, and three precious children.

Uncle Allan and Aunt Linda sharing about their oldest child!

 I wouldn't have missed being here for this day. It was such a blessing to be with all of my family and grieve and rejoice together. It was so healing to my soul.
I was able to see all of my brothers and sisters and my nieces and nephews. I didn't take official pictures of all of them, but I will share a few of the ones I took!

Derrick & Naomi with their two children Kendrick and Claire
(Naomi prego with Elizabeth)

 Another highlight was being able to see old friends. I think I talked for twelve hours straight WITHOUT stopping. It must be a world record for talking for sure!!
Me with my friend Juliana Kuelen
My Father along with my Uncle Allan and brother Chad, own a business called Ceramic Decorating Co. in Los Angeles. Donna Beth worked there for years. Some of the employees from CDC were there to honor Donna. It was fun to speak in SPANISH with them!!
Rudi with a long time employee of CDC, Reggie! R. My older sis Carrie, younger sis Naomi, Me,
and sister in law Marilee holding Vienna

Rudi packing Dwight, Eric packing Robert
Below is one of Donna's brothers, Rodney with his wife Debbie, my brother David, my sister in law Sherri, and my oldest brother Warren. 
After the memorial we actually made a very quick trip up to Oregon. We were able to visit all of Rudi's brothers and his parents. Eric and Meriwyn surprised us by driving up to Oregon, a 16 hour trip from where they live. So at one point, all of Rudi's family was together for a short, but very sweet time together.
What a treasure of memories we came away with. We knew that they would have to last us for at least another year. It was good to get back in Bolivia with our children again. I was so blessed to have been able to go back to remember my cousin, Donna Beth, and also to have touched base with our family and friends.

Heaven feels a little closer every time someone dear to me moves up! What a day of rejoicing when we all are together again!


  1. Thank you for a beautiful tribute Carla!!! xo

  2. This was so precious to read, Carla, and see the great photos! Thank you so much for blessing us with this testimony of love!
    All my love and prayers,
    Mother B

  3. This is a joy to read, Honey! Thank you so much for taking the time to share this. To think that Donna Beth has been gone for a year already--too many emotions to express, but I rejoice with and for her. I am grateful for our blessed hope of eternal life with all the redeemed and with our God and Saviour! Looking for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the Great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.