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Eternally 23

Eternally 23


On June 9, 2011, I woke to the warm breezes of too many fans in a too-warm room. One was on my face—a fan clipped to a bunk pole. Another ruffled the sheet up and down my body, and a third brushed my feet. My BlackBerry buzzed beside my ear.

I pressed the green button and mumbled a drowsy “hello.”


[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]God is good, and His will is perfect.[/pullquote]Still half asleep, I paused to plea with my brain to wake up. Late night phone calls, early morning phone calls—in my experience, they never brought good news. I realized, though, that it was my mother speaking, so at least she was okay.

“What’s up?” I said.

“I’m really sorry to wake you up so early, but cousin Daniel died this morning.”

I sat up quickly. All of my questions jumbled together into a mess of panicked sounds. She told me she loved me and that she’d see me soon, and, stifling a sob, she hung up.

Feeling confused but awake, I walked a few steps to the bathroom. Looking in the mirror, I was hyper aware of my breathing, my blinking, my eye movement. I felt fully and painfully alive—something my cousin was not.

I called my brother. He was calm, and he kept repeating, “God is good, and His will is perfect.”

My cousin was dead. How could God be good?

Green Divider

Later that morning, my friend Karen and I walked to work at the southern end of the Ocean City, MD boardwalk. I didn’t say a thing about Dan. To Karen, it was a normal Thursday on Summer Project with Cru. Nothing was different. Everything was fine.

Isn’t it funny how the world doesn’t stop? How everything keeps going and going in its normal cycle, even when something disrupts your world? In the midst of a tragedy, stupid seagulls still eat Thrashers French Fries out of the trash. The Polish Water Ice sounds still play on a loop over and over and over again. The beach and water are still gorgeous and perfect. The vacationers still walk up and down the boardwalk, buying food and souvenirs. Coworkers and customers still make conversation and joke around.

Isn’t it funny how life goes on, even when someone’s life stops? Isn’t it funny that people smiled the day Dan died?

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[pullquote width=”300″ float=”right”]Isn’t it funny how life goes on, even when someone’s life stops? Isn’t it funny that people smiled the day Dan died?[/pullquote]When I got to my aunt and uncle’s house, I found my uncle in the garage. I hugged him tightly. He and I were never all that close, but “closeness,” I’ve found, doesn’t matter when someone you both love is gone.

My other cousins were there—“the girls” and “the boys,” I call them. My mom is the middle child of three. Her older brother—the uncle I hugged in the garage—had three boys, while her younger brother has three girls. My mom has a boy and a girl. Everything was even. But it wasn’t anymore.

Because he was texting and driving, Dan is eternally 23—three years older than I was when he passed away, and two years younger than I am right now. He was my older cousin. Is he not anymore? Is he younger than me? How do I reconcile him being my older cousin with him no longer growing? How is it fair that I can still grow?

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When someone you love dies, it’s so easy to get mad at God and turn away from Him. It’s easy to run away and question His presence. It’s easy to be frustrated and scream, “Why, God?! Why?!”

But what I’ve learned is there is no “satisfactory” answer to that question. God hates death because death came from sin in the Garden, and God hates sin. Death is a human problem, not a God problem. The spiritual answer to the question of death is “because sin.” Nothing more. And to a grieving human, that answer just fuels the grief.

What’s hard is to remember and have faith that God is good, and His will is perfect. Even when life isn’t good, God is. How would we know the good if we didn’t experience the bad? How would we know light if we didn’t experience darkness?

Green Divider

One year later, on June 9, 2012, I spent the majority of my day in Pittsburgh. My paternal cousin PJ was marrying his bride Abigail, and I was tasked with reading 1 Corinthians 13 at the ceremony.

Isn’t it beautiful how life goes on?


Grace & Such strives to advance Christian growth among women. While we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, we also recognize human interpretations are imperfect. Grace & Such encourages our readers to open their Bibles, pray for wisdom and study for themselves what the Word says. For more about who we are, please visit the About Us page.

Natalie Liounis

Natalie is a sinner who has been saved by the irresistible grace of God. She loves Jesus and spends her days caring for her daughter, encouraging her husband, snuggling her dog, and reading and writing when she gets some time to herself. She lives in Annapolis, where she has the best church community she could ever ask for.
Natalie Liounis

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  1. Ruth on June 9, 2016 at 6:16 AM

    Love your perspective..thanks!

  2. Rebecca Preston on June 9, 2016 at 7:05 AM

    “Isn’t it funny how the world doesn’t stop? How everything keeps going and going in its normal cycle, even when something disrupts your world?” I’ve often had the same thought. We lost Bud’s sister at the age of 23 of nothing that they could pinpoint. She is also eternally 23. For her it’s no problem, she’s with God. But we still miss her after all these years…I can see it is truly more my problem than God’s. Love that perspective. Thanks, Natalie!

  3. Diane Tarantini on June 9, 2016 at 8:09 AM

    So very sorry for your loss, Natalie. This piece is a beautiful reflection on your experience, just beautiful.

  4. Gretchen on June 9, 2016 at 8:47 AM

    I remember thinking how odd it was that the world could continue to spin on its axis without so much a a hesitation the day my mom died. How could people laugh? How could they pay their bills, go about their daily lives, and not notice the big hole in the universe? I’m so sorry for your loss, Natalie. Big hugs.

    I’m grateful that Jesus mourns & remembers with us. And I know many people turn away in times of loss, but I keep thinking to myself… I don’t know where I’d be without him.

  5. Diane on June 9, 2016 at 11:22 AM

    “What’s hard is to remember and have faith that God is good, and His will is perfect. Even when life isn’t good, God is.” Thanks, Natalie, for a sweet remembrance of how God gets us through crappy stuff. Something to remember as ‘life goes on…’

  6. Tara on June 9, 2016 at 5:45 PM

    When my friends Mom passed she said she wished she could wear a pin that said “my Mom just died” because people just didn’t get it. The deep hurt that comes with loss while everyone else goes about their normal ol’ day.
    What a calming mantra- God is good, and His will is perfect. That’s a keeper.

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