The Shock of Sudden Death

I looked at caller id and felt a shadow of foreboding. My sister never called on Sunday afternoons. Was something wrong?

“There was an incident at the lake,” she said. “Jon’s gone.”

We’re never ready to part with a loved one. And while long illnesses present their own challenges, they prepare us to say goodbye. But to be hale and hearty one minute, jumping into a lake to swim, and gone the next defies comprehension. Sudden death jars us.

While my brother-in-law’s sudden death has stunned our family, I also see God’s mercy. Jon was an energetic man always moving. If he could have chosen his exit plan, I think this is exactly what he would have chosen. Fully alive one minute, having fun with friends and family, and more alive the next in the presence of God.

If Jon could have chosen his exit plan, I think this is exactly what he would have chosen. Fully alive one minute, having fun with friends and family, and more alive the next in the presence of God. #loss, #grief Share on X

A Life of Purpose

Jon and my sister Diane founded a ministry called The Great Exchange to reach university students. My son spent an afternoon at the University of Georgia with him. In that one afternoon five students prayed to receive Christ with Jon.

Just a couple of weeks before he left this earth, he spent a week vacationing with four of his five children and ten of his eleven grandchildren. Pictures of Jon in a pirate hat leading his brood reflect his energy and love.

Jon was one of the last people I expected to die. Losing the man who lived with such purpose and energy reminds me to treasure each person and day God gives me. Why sweat small things when I’m surrounded by people I love? Like Jon, may we live to have no regrets when our name is called.

Jon left this earth with a splash. But his life still ripples through eternity.

Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8 NLT).

Comment here.


Debbie Wilson

Sometimes I link with these great sites:

#InspireMeMonday, #InstaEncouraements, #TellHisStory and here , #Let’sHaveCoffee#Recharge Wednesday, #Grace&Truth,

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  1. Lisa Blair

    I’m so sad for your family’s loss, Debbie, and pray you will know the Lord’s comfort during this time.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Lisa. It is so hard to grasp.

      • Michelle Gewin

        Jim and I are reeling and grieving. We love you and your family so much!!!

        • Debbie Wilson

          Beyond comprehension. Thank you, Michelle.

  2. Lois Flowers

    Oh Debbie … my heart aches for your sister, for you and for your whole family. I’m thankful for the legacy Jon left and that the memories are sweet.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Lois, he certainly did. I know he received his, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

  3. Linda Goldfarb

    Such a timely message, Debbie. I’m so sorry for your loss.
    Love you, my sister-friend

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Linda. I know many have experienced sudden loss recently and in the past. Hard to wrap you mind around.

  4. Stephanie

    So very sorry for your families loss. What a beautiful article sharing about your brother in law and his life – and what a Christ filled life he led. Praying for comfort.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Stephanie.

      • PeggySue

        A reminder to treasure the moments and the people. And to wear a pirate hat whenever possible.

        • Debbie Wilson

          Yes! Always. 🙂

  5. Joni

    Beautiful. Thankful for you!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Love you, Joni.

  6. Ella

    Sweet Debbie, this makes me so sad for all of you. Your tribute is beautiful and he sounds so wonderful and fun. Those heaven reunions are going to be so good.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Won’t they be, Ella? Yes. Life is a vapor.

  7. Mary Joy

    Debbie- I just saw this on Fb I had no idea Jon had passed. I will send a message to Diane – my heart is hurting for her loss. Thinking of you during this sad time for your family
    Mary Joy

    • Debbie Wilson

      Shocking for all of us. I know she’d love to hear from you, Mary Joy.

      • Mary joy

        When is the funeral?

        • Debbie Wilson

          Saturday. Sent you a message.

  8. Linda Heard

    You have captured Jon so wellDebbie.-The energy, the passion for evangelism, and his love for his family. He was a presence in our community and beyond and we will miss him!

    • Debbie Wilson

      He was, and we will. Thank you, Linda.

  9. Shirley Miller

    Debbie, I was so shocked and saddened to hear of Jon’s death. He made such an impact for Christ. All of you are in our prayers.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Shirley.

  10. Ann Johnson

    Debbie, we’re so very sorry for your loss. Grieve well, my friend. Cherish the memories you had with him. Make more memories with his family in his honor as you can. You are loved. Praying for you and your family. ~Ann and Sam

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Ann and Sam. We will.

  11. Kelly

    So sorry for the whole family. Those pictures of him make me smile. To have fun and share the joy in life with children is so wonderful to see. I am praying for the whole family and for your sister to have strength, peace and hope. May she feel the Lord’s arms around her holding her close. ❤️

    • Debbie Wilson

      Amen. Thank you, Kelly.

  12. Gwen Young

    Our deepest sympathy to the whole family, Debbie. God bless you all with his peace.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Gwen.

  13. Susan

    Love to you and yours Debbie at this time. Loved this newsletter.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Susan.

  14. Catherine Chavers

    I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. What an amazing legacy he’s left. Prayers for all of you as you grieve.

    • Debbie Wilson

      He certainly did! Thank you, Catherine.

  15. Joan Benson

    Oh, Debbie. I am sad for your family’s great loss of this precious one’s energy, joy, and love. I have often commented on the impact of a sudden, unexpected death versus a lingering loss where all wait in anticipation of the final goodbye. They are both difficult in different ways. It is so wonderful your Jon could live and love his entire family so recently—a true blessing to cherish. Rejoice in his well-lived life and grieve the loss of his vibrancy.

    God bless your hurting heart.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Death hurts any way you slice it. But you’re right, the two ways of leaving affect us in different ways. Thank you, Joan.

  16. Ashley Rowland | HISsparrowBlog

    What a wonderful legacy left by your brother-in-law. I loved what you said about seeing God’s mercy even in this. So sorry for your family’s loss.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Ashely.

  17. Rey Cooke

    Oh Wow! What a beautiful testimony of a life well lived! Enjoying abundant life at the very moment he was taken and now his faith has become sight! Thank you for sharing a glimpse of his life. Praying for your family, sister and their children and grands during this temporary separation.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Rey. Yes, a temporary separation!

  18. Ann Musico

    I am so sorry for your loss and extend my condolences to you and your family. Sudden, unexpected death is never easy. While my mom was ill for a period of time and then passed away fairly quickly my dad’s passing was truly sudden and unexpected. I spoke to him one morning and said I would call him the next day. I called the better part of the day getting no answer. Sometimes he forgot to put his hearing aid in so I wasn’t too concerned until about 3 pm, I asked close friends and neighbors to check on him. They found him at the bottom of the basement stairs. He evidently got almost to the top, had a heart attack and fell down the stairs. It’s incredibly difficult to lose any loved one – whether suddenly or after a long illness. Your brother in law has left a wonderful legacy.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Oh Ann, I know that shook you. Yes, it’s never easy. Thanks for your kind thoughts and prayers. He truly was a remarkable man of God.

  19. ~ linda

    May the God of all comfort place His arms around you and your sister, the family, as Jon touched many in wonderful ways. I love the photos of him playing with all those little ones. They will miss him so.
    “Jon left this earth with a splash. But his life still ripples through eternity.” This quote from this post says so very much!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Linda.

  20. Melissa Henderson

    I am sending love, hugs, and prayers. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you so much, Melissa.

  21. Nancy E. Head

    I’m so sorry for this loss, Debbie. God bless and bring comfort to all who loved him.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Nancy.

  22. Kelly

    If he could have scripted his last breath, I’m guessing it would have been EXACTLY like that day. Pirate hat in place, and the threat of mutiny from his grandchildren. I’m praying for all of you. It’s always the ones left behind that struggle so greatly – but Jon is just fine, as you well know. I’m sure he’s on a grand adventure all his own! Arg….
    What a legacy of swabbies he left behind!! And a bushel of loyal crew mates.
    Much love Debbie. Your family is close in my prayers.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Yes! Thanks, Kelly. We appreciate your prayers so much.

  23. Sue McGee Wind

    I’m deeply sorry about your family’s great loss. What a shock to everyone! May our Lord comfort all of you with sweet memories and His promise of heaven, and may He carry you through the coming days. I hurt and grieve with you. I love you.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Sue. I know you do.

  24. J.D. Wininger

    Oh Ms. Diane, how I lament not getting to your email earlier than I did ma’am. Please accept my, all be they delayed, condolences and sympathies to your family. I didn’t know Mr. Jon and Ms. Diane, or of their earthy ministry, but I am certain that heaven rejoiced at Mr. Jon’s arrival. Know that I’ll be praying for your sister Ms. Diane and your entire family that God brings peace and comfort to your souls. As much as we KNOW where Mr. Jon is, the sting of death remains for those left behind. I pray it is fleeting as God fills that huge empty place in your hearts with wonderful memories of the legacy of live that your brother-in-law left behind. And yes, dying suddenly somehow robs us of the opportunity to say goodbye, which is why it is ever so important that we remember that tomorrow is never promised. Your words remind me to not go to sleep harboring anger or resentment toward any one, because before we awaken we or they could be gone. God’s blessings ma’am.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank J.D. We do rejoice for Jon. But he sure left a big hole. Thanks again.

  25. Annie Yorty

    What a legacy! Jon sounds like someone I would have liked to know. May God surround you all with His comfort and love as you grieve.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Annie, that is another blessing we’ll have in heaven. We’ll get to know each other!! Can’t wait to introduce you. 🙂

  26. Yvonne Morgan

    Oh Debbie, I am sorry for your loss. It sounds like he left behind an incredible legacy that will impact eternity. I pray for all his family and I pray I leave behind such a beautiful example for others.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Yvonne. I agree. May we lives glorify God and touch others for Him too.

  27. Matt Mercer

    Dear Debbie, Diane, Joni, Emily, Christopher, Caleb and Kelsey and the grands,

    God Bless You and Comfort You With His Everlasting Love: Jesus Loves You…
    I am very sorry for your loss. Know I am praying for your Family. Jon impacted SO many lives for Christ! He and Your Family were there for me when I needed it the most! I will never forget. May You find peace and comfort during this time through comforting Scriptures (there are many) like Psalm 23 and Romans 15:13 I Love Y’all! Thanks again

    • Debbie Wilson

      Matt, those are two of my favorite go-tos in Scriptures. Thank you so much for your testimony of Jon’s impact. We love hearing those stories.

  28. Jane Williams

    Debbie, thank you for writing about the shock of sudden death. Communicating about this takes the edge off the surreal feel of this shock. And the truth about our Jesus loving/believing loved ones who’ve gone suddenly to be with Him is a soothing balm even in the pain of grief.

    • Debbie Wilson

      We grieve, but not as the world. You’re right, Jane. Knowing our loved ones are with the lord makes all the difference.

  29. Renae

    Richard and I are so sorry for the great loss of Jon Deans.
    Your words are beautiful and comforting.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Renae.

  30. Joanne Viola

    Debbie, I am so sorry for your loss. What beautiful memories your brother-in-law has left for you and all your family. May God bring His comfort and peace in the days ahead as you all think of him.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Joanne. We appreciate how the family of Christ has gathered round.

  31. Susan Marlene

    What an incredible life your brother-in-law lived. I really appreciate your post that honors his life of service and love for young people to come to the Lord. Thank you!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Susan.

  32. Katherine Pasour

    I’m so sorry for your family’s loss, Debbie. What a wonderful legacy your brother-in-law Jon left on earth through his work for our Lord.

    • Debbie Wilson

      He certainly did. Thanks, Katherine.

  33. Connie

    Debbie , so sorry your family’s loss! What a beautiful legacy he left! Thanks for sharing. Love,

    • Debbie Wilson

      Connie, I know Jesus greeting Jon with “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”

  34. Lisa notes

    I’m so sorry that you all (and the world!) lost Jon. He sounds like such a bright light. May his legacy continue to shine brightly.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Amen. Thanks, Lisa.

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