An interview about my son Christopher’s passing

Hey everyone.

As you may know, this Friday, July 24, will mark the one-year anniversary of the passing of our firstborn son, Christopher, to heaven. I appreciate all of your prayers, and I plan on writing about this in a day or so.

Here is an interview that my son Jonathan and I recently did with Dan Wooding of the ASSIST News Service. It sums up where we are at during at this time in our lives.

The agony and joy of Greg Laurie

He talks about the tragic death of his son Christopher; his younger son, Jonathan, shares movingly about how he recommitted his life to Christ because of the death of his brother.

By Dan Wooding

Founder of ASSIST Ministries

SANTA ANA, CA (ANS) — Thursday, July 24, 2008 was the most devastating day of Greg Laurie’s life. The unimaginable happened when his son Christopher, 33, was killed in a tragic car accident on the 91 freeway on his way to work as art director of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, where Greg is the senior pastor.

Now, almost a year from the tragedy, Greg Laurie agreed to talk about his heartbreak and his younger son, Jonathan Laurie, revealed how the car accident that took his brother transformed his life – for good!

Both father and son came into the studios of Southern California’s KWVE 107.9 FM to talk with me for my Front Page Radio program.

I began by asking Greg to relive that terrible moment when he found out about the accident.

“It’s been almost a year now, Dan, and it was the most devastating experience of my life,” he said. “In fact, of all the bad experiences I’ve had — and I’ve had a few – none came even come close to what this was like. It’s the news no parent ever wants to hear you never expect to hear it.”

How did he first hear about the accident?

Greg said, “It was really strange the way I found out. My wife was leading a Bible study for Christopher’s wife Brittany and her mom. I was babysitting my granddaughter Stella. Brittany mentioned that she’d called Christopher and he’d not responded. Then I got a call from the church. They were asking, ‘Where’s Christopher?’

“So I called him and he didn’t answer; I then sent a text to him saying, ‘Where are you?’ Again, he didn’t answer. Then, from that point on, we started making calls to try and find out where he had gone. After about 45 minutes, we knew something was not right, we didn’t know what.

“Obviously we were praying; we were concerned and worried. Then, Don McClure, a pastor friend, showed up at my house and said, ‘Christopher’s been in an accident.” But he wouldn’t tell me the extent of it. I was told that some of the pastors from our church were going to come and talk to me. At this point I knew it was bad, but I was still hoping that it was not fatal.”

Greg said that when the pastors from his church arrived, one of them told him, “Christopher is with the Lord!”

Greg closed his eyes and told me, “When I heard that, it was like time stood still and the air was sucked out of the room. I couldn’t comprehend what I had just heard, and it really was, in many ways, incomprehensible. It was so hard.

“I have to say that although it was devastating and crushing, and I fell to the ground weeping, the Lord was there with me. I sensed His presence and His peace and I have never, for a moment, doubted that Christopher’s in heaven.”

I then asked Greg how his wife Cathe responded to the shocking news.

“She wept and she may have screamed. I don’t remember,” he said. “Brittany was crying also, as we all got the news at the same time. We were all crying. But we were also praying at the same time, saying things like, ‘Oh Lord, we look to you. We call on you.’”

Greg went on to say, “How could anyone survive such news if they didn’t know God? I can’t imagine trying to deal with this: without one’s faith in Christ; without the presence of the Lord; without Christian friends surrounding you and praying; knowing what to say and, hopefully, knowing what not to say,” he said. “We were surrounded by some wonderful godly people that helped us through those first few moments, those first few hours and the first few days.”

I told Greg that for anyone, this was so traumatic, but because he was so well-known in Southern California and across the world, this must have made it even more difficult to cope with. I wondered if he had thought about just giving up and retreating from the world for the time being.

“Well, you know one thinks about retreating but, really, you want to be around the people you love. You want to hear their words of reassurance,” said Greg. “I was surprised at how public it was, not only in the Christian community, but it was on the front page of the local newspaper with the headline, ‘Son of evangelist killed.’ To read those words in print, though you know it’s true, and see a photograph of your son — that was really painful.

“Then people were talking about it and it was on the radio and TV news. Of course, it was an auto accident, so it was a very horrific thing.”

Greg said that despite it all, it began changing his attitude to people.

“I gained a new compassion for people who have lost children,” he said. “When a celebrity dies, everyone talks about it and people opine on it. But, I’ll tell you that every one of these people that die have a mom and a dad and they have a family. It’s devastating for them. I looked at the way some people spoke about it — so matter of factly — and I had to say to myself, ‘You know, that’s my son they’re talking about.’

“But then there were many believers that said such sweet things. My blog site was inundated with messages. I had some 15,000 messages on my blog. I, frankly, have never read all of them, but I’ve read many of them and they were very comforting to me. I still go back to them and read them and they have encouraged me along with the prayers that people offered.

“Here it is, almost a year later, and I’d like to say its all better, Dan. I feel fantastic and you know there are moments when everything aligns in my mind and my heart. I think that Christopher’s in heaven and he’s happier than he’s ever been and that I’m going to see him again. It’s glorious and I have peace and even a bit of joy. Then, five minutes later, a memory is triggered by something and the pain of missing him comes right back.

“Last night, I had dreams about him again and in them I’m having conversations with him. Usually, in my dreams, I’m with him and then he’s suddenly gone. He disappears. In one dream I had, while I was talking to him, I reached out to and he disappeared. So you can’t stop your subconscious from processing these things. It is still very painful but the Lord has been with us. We have the Lord, we have our friends, we have our faith, we have our hope for the future of reunion, we have our memories of yesterday and we have today. And today, we want to try to the best of our ability to glorify God through this and try to minister to others who are hurting.

“I’ve come into contact with many people who have lost loved ones, especially children, who’ve reached out to me. When I meet someone who’s lost a child, I stop what I’m doing and I take time for them. I listen a lot more than I used to. I used to be quicker on the draw with a verse or two. I still will share verses and encouraging words, but I’m quicker to listen and slower to speak when someone comes and tells me of their pain.”

Sitting next to his father and listening intently to the interview, was Jonathan Laurie, Christopher’s younger brother. So I asked him where he was when he first heard the news about the accident.

“I was working for a plating aerospace company in Santa Ana when my foreman came over to me and asked me how I was doing,” he recalled. “At that point, I didn’t know what had happened to Christopher, but apparently it was already going around on the channels. I didn’t have my phone with me at the time so I hadn’t heard anything. He left me alone for a few minutes with a Christian police officer friend who I knew quite well and who was a Christian man and he said, ‘You need to go home to see your parents.’ That’s when I knew something had gone wrong. When I got access to my cell phone, that’s when I began receiving text messages and phone calls. I just refrained until I got home. Actually, Don McClure, the same person informed me that told my Dad. He said that my brother ‘was with the Lord.’

“I went into shock immediately. I couldn’t comprehend it, or believe it. It took me probably an hour or so for it to really start to click — that this actually happened. It was almost like I went into a dream state. It was so surreal.”

I asked Jonathan to recall the last time he saw his brother.

“My last vivid memory of him was last Fourth of July,” he said. “We were in Montana and it was probably one of the best family vacations that I can remember.

“We were quite distant in age but, as we grew older, that gap began to close. The older I became, the closer I grew to him. We grew as friends and brothers. He was always looking out for my best interests. He kept me accountable a number of times.

“He kept his eye on me. You may think that being raised in a pastor’s home would make us instant Christians and followers of Christ. You know we always did have that faith in Jesus and we always believed in Jesus, but there was a time when I rebelled and there was a time when Christopher rebelled.

“He knew where I was at as he’d lived a similar lifestyle. He was just kind of living as a ‘prodigal son’ running from his Christianity for a short time. But we both always wanted to end up back there. It was just a matter of what it was going to take.

“Up until the time that he went home to be with the Lord, he had actually been very encouraging of me: to get my life right; to quit living this double life; to stop partying and doing all that lifestyle entails. In fact, the night before his death, I was out with friends, doing the party thing; smoking and drinking. That night I really thought about how I wanted to go see my brother the next morning and talk to him about how miserable I was. I told had him previously that I wanted to get back there and he’d asked me, ‘Well, what it is going to take?’ That next morning, I got my answer. Christopher going home to be with the Lord was my wake up call.”

Jonathan went on to say, “When I got the news at home. I just sat on my bed and looked at pictures of him. After I began to comprehend what had happened, I just began to weep. Then I went through my room and just ravaged it, grabbing all the stuff I knew that was bringing me down. I held it all in my hands, prayed to the Lord, and I said, ‘God, you know that I’ve proven to you and myself that I’m incapable of doing this on my own. I can’t stop using this stuff on my own strength so you’re going to have to help me, but I want to do this.’

“He’s been faithful to do that since I prayed that prayer and He’s been faithful to help me stay clean. I’m walking with the Lord now and I know that I honor my brother’s advice. That’s the best thing I think I can do for Christopher in heaven.”

Greg Laurie was close to tears as his son told his story.

“It is a great blessing and I have to tell you, Dan, that Jonathan has shared this testimony all over in our crusades that we’ve held in different places this last year,” said Greg. “He’s stood up in front of thousands of people and Jonathan was never that kind of a person that would want to get in front of a crowd and talk. Some people like attention but he was never that way. He was more of a quiet, soft spoken, young man. But because of this thing that has happened to him and what the Lord has done in his life, he’s gotten up boldly.

“We were just in Pennsylvania at something called the Creation Festival, a Christian event that’s been going on for over 30 years. I was speaking and I brought Jonathan out to give his testimony. He gave it before 70,000 and I’ll tell you what — those kids started listening. When he talked about the compromised life, there are just a lot of kids raised in Christian homes who know what’s right, but aren’t living it, and they’re in that miserable no man’s land.

“When one of them, like Jonathan, speaks and talks about how the Lord’s gotten a hold of him, there’s an authenticity. Not that the adults don’t have it, but they think, ‘Well, you’re an adult.’ But when it’s a fellow kid, a peer speaks, it means so much more to them.

“This is one of the good things that have come of this tragedy. There’s still a lot of pain and there’s a lot of heartache, but God promise is to work ‘all things together for good’ is true. We have seen how the Lord has brought glory to his name through Jonathan’s testimony and also through Brittany, Christopher’s wife’s testimony. We’ve all felt a greater determination to serve the Lord with even more intensity than we had before.”

“I’ve determined not to put a happy face on it, meaning I want to be real. I want to be honest. I want to be truthful about the difficulty, but I also want to be honoring to the Lord and tell people how He’s sustained us through this and how I still depend upon Him every day to make it through.”

Greg then shared the good news, that late last year, Brittany gave birth to Lucy Christopher Laurie, who joins Stella, the other daughter.

“Stella is going on to her third birthday and if a father ever doted on a daughter it was Christopher,” he said. “He was a great daddy, but he did not live to see little Lucy born, at least on earth. One wonders what people know in heaven. I think it’s entirely possible that he’s fully aware of Lucy there in heaven. But he missed the birth here on earth. She’s growing and she’s just a sweetheart, one of the happiest little babies I’ve ever seen. They’re both just sweet hearts. I love them both.”

Greg is now preparing for his latest Harvest Crusade, which have drawn nearly 3 million people to ballparks and arenas across the Southland since 1990, and will mark 20 years in Southern California with its annual evangelistic outreach at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, August 14–16.

Shortly after Christopher’s death, Greg somehow preached each night at Angel Stadium last year surrounded on stage by the designs of Christopher.

“He was the lead designer in our graphics department at Harvest and he’d done the entire campaign,” he said. “So I stood on a stage that was designed by him, surrounded by art that he’d done. Even our crusade campaign this year is sort of built off the template of what he’d designed the year before.

“When I see his art around me, it inspires me. One thing Christopher uniquely implemented in the campaign last year was an animated arrow going up to heaven. There were these little arrows constantly going up and so we kept that arrow in a lot of the design that we’ve done because it just reminds us of where Christopher is and that we are to keep ‘looking up’. As the Scripture says, ‘We are to be heavenly minded. Set your minds on things above,’ Paul says in Colossians 3, ‘not on the things of the earth.” Another way to translate that is to keep thinking heaven. I think we all need to think more about heaven because we’re all headed there as followers of Jesus.”

95 thoughts on “An interview about my son Christopher’s passing”

  1. Juliana Pedro says:

    Pastor Gregg
    I Juliana get your daily devotion and has helped me a lot!
    I have recently lost my son; 16yrs old right before his birthday 2 weeks ago!
    Reading this interview helps me but I’m still in a lot of pain and questions!
    My husband and my girls we are all very heartbroken!!
    He was a very active, full of life, excited about life, had faith in God, and who was never gotten sick!
    I’m sorry about your son Christopher!
    I’ve never thought I’d be in this situation!
    Please we need help; prayers and encouragement!
    Thank you

  2. Ruth Guymer says:

    Dear Greg, I am a broken hearted Mother reading this article in 2018. My precious 22 year old daughter Millie fell from a cliff at the beach in San Diego recently and my beautiful family is shattered. Millie was my youngest and the light of all our lives.
    In searching for a sermon on heaven, I came across a video of yours and learned of the painful loss of your own dear Son. I felt the depth of your heart as you spoke. Since then I have listened to more and ordered the little book you wrote on grief. I have been comforted and very much appreciate your loving heart. Though you may not see this I still thank you from my heart for sharing and extending the peace of God to others grieving as you have.
    In Gods love, Ruth

  3. Lynette Sanders says:

    Hello Pastor Greg, I stumbled upon your page on a day that was much needed. My son was also killed in a horrible car accident on 8/13/15 at the age of 20. He also left behind a son at 10 months old. He never made it to his 1st Birthday on earth but he joined us in the spiritual realm. I’m a Christian woman and my son, Eric Rafael Sanders was also a Godly & Christian young man attending church every weekend. My heart aches for you as I read about your Christopher. It calmed my heart to read all about Heaven. I know my son made it to his mansion… The pain of losing a child is one that I honestly thought that day I would die of a broken heart… God is so amazing to us grieving parents…I really appreciate your blog and may God bless you always for sharing your story. I can’t wait to join my only son in Heaven one day.

  4. Annie Esrom Kaun says:

    I believed, Christopher he is in Heaven with our Lord. My Dad is an Elder of a Presbyterian Church. He came and visit in 29April 2004.He told me that his SAVIOUR will call him home at night to be with Him in glory. He told me that his body is like a bird’s net. When His Lord calls him, the spirit will fly away to heaven and his body will be left behind, back to the ground as the Bible tells us. On the 8th May 2004, dad prepared every thing during the day. In the morning of that Saturday he told my mummy to cleaned our home inside and outside. He told my mummy that the Lord will call him very soon. He barked Bread when it is cooked, dad had his bath, put on his black long Trousers and white long hand shirt, when to his bed, before he closed his eyes, dad told my mum, these 200vt coins is his thanksgiving offering for mum to take to church tomorrow morning. After saying this, dad lay on his bed, fold his hands and our Lord call him home at 8pm.Those bread dad barked, is the very bread people had in the morning.
    I was very sick when dad came to visit me and when the Lord call him home, it helps me turn my mind on the heavenly things and I begin to get my healing. Yes, what the spirit of God tells as in the Bible it’s true.
    Christopher your Son he’s with our Lord. Heaven is real. Pastor Greg, continue to praise God, thanked Him for Christopher’s Life, his family, his work of Art he did in the church. One day we will meet him in glory with our Lord. Amen.

  5. Robert Shinn says:

    Greg, Jonathan, and Cathy: Terri and I have appreciated you all for 37 years now. I came to Christ at Harvest (Calvary Chapel of Riverside back then) just 1 week after our 4 month old son Joshua died of SIDS on October 21, 1979. Terri rededicated her life to the Lord exactly one week after I was saved. We were there for 10 years until God called us to Calvary of Albuquerque with Skip and Lenya Heitzig, and we are still attending there. The pain of loss was very strong back then, but I knew my baby was in heaven and I wondered if I would ever see him again….would I go to heaven? I was an agnostic 22 year old, a survivor of the 70’s generation, sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. But God had much bigger and better plans for us. Now my son Jesse (36) and daughter Corrie (34) love the Lord, and their spouses also love Jesus. Greg and his staff got Terri and I truly grounded in the Lord and that prepared us for the long haul out here in New Mexico with Skip. God bless you and your family!!!

  6. Loriann Berry says:

    Thank you Pastor Greg for sharing this with us. This hurts my heart to read so I can only imagine how you and your wife/family hurt. But I have to say Thank You Lord for your Son in whom we Believe in , Accept as Our Lord and Saviour and know that with what was done at the Cross was finished work for the Salvation of Mankind, you and your family know that you will be with The Lord when he calls you home and you will be with Him forever , You Will See Your Son Christopher and this is for Eternity. Praise Our Heavenly Father. My son Elijah has an addiction with Heroin for about 5yrs now, is presently in a correctional facility until his court date-Jan. 9,2016, next month, My hope and prayer as many are praying , is that my son will make the decision to get help in Virginia, New LIfe For Youth, I drove him there in june but he left in 3wks. He cannot live with us at home as this will only enable him and not give him what he truly needs, which is getting away from here for the yr. program and gaining support/tools/foundation/changed life- New LIfe is a Christ Centered Place. I keep all in prayer for The Lords will to be done, yet there are times I’m picturing my son dying, then the Holy Spirit draws my attention back to Him. Please Pray for my son Elijah for him to have a personal revelation of Jesus right where he is and to surrender to Him and to be a testimony for others to plant seeds, we all need the Lord, Thank You and keeping you and your family in prayer as well In Jesus Name Amen

  7. Teri says:

    Dear Greg, I lost my 42 year old son Shannon to cancer on Dec 5th 2015. I am so devastated by this. Some days I feel I can hardly breathe. I have been a Christian since I was 9 yrs old, and was standing on God’s promises of where two or more are gathered. I had many many people praying for his healing… I was so sure he’d be healed.. It was not to be… I have a hard time understanding why we have to lose our children .. There are no answers.. I know I will see him again… My heart goes out to all of those who have lost their children.. God Bless you all..

    1. Lydia says:

      We need this comfort and hope…parents grieving for their children. I lost my beautiful son, Philip, 14 years old, to brain cancer on April 13, 2016. I am a single mom, who had been raising Phil and his three brothers alone for 12 years. God is giving strength each day, and he uses others’ testimonies to get me through, so thank you. I am often preaching to myself, as you mentioned!

  8. paul folmer jr says:

    Greg, I have listened to you for a while now, you and Jesus were a part of the lonliest times of my life . I was searching for God to speak to me so many times while I was away from home working in the Bakken oil field in my home state of ND. I could not fathom what you must have gone through….. Until December 31, 2015! Just 16 days ago from this post, my 28 year old Daughter Ashley passed away from a brain anuerism. My youngest daughter was with her and calmly called 911. Then she began calling family… NEVER in my life have I felt such Gut Wrenching Dispair in my life as I made my way from the 360 miles from where I work to where she was Life Flighted to in Fargo, ND. I have Faith in our Father and after just days before talking to my Daughter Ashley about her faith in Jesus, I prayed for Gods’ will to prevail. . It did and days later I dug my daughters grave myself and every frozen inch of ground gave me both sorrow and peace. Praise Jesus, she may have met a tragic death, but God saw fit to Bless her ending with a Poetic Miracle. Many people have asked me how I can say this and as you well know, the physical and emotional pain that goes with losing a child Here is her miracle. She suffered after the loss of her own son, Elijah and now they play together in Gods Kingdom, She brought together family through her death that have not seen or spoken to each other in 20+ years… Because of her sister being put in the right place at exactly the right time, she was able to be a full organ and tissue donor. And a tragic death for us as a family meant that God gave life to 3 double organ recipients and a heart transplant recipient. It may also have brought her Iraq combat veteran older brother closer to Christ than he has been since he was struck by lightning at Ft. Irwin in California after his tour of duty which left him bitter to God. You see, God ccould have let my daughter be alone and have left us all with a gaping hole and questions why… The why is much easier to understand when I know where she is and how beautiful a miracle he worked with such a tragic death. Praise Jesus for answered prayers. I ask only for prayers for my youngest daughter Clair and her older brother Anthony. That they see Gods’ hand in this miracle.

  9. Sandy Lambert says:

    Our son,Andrew lambert died this December 13, 2015 just two days after his 41st birthday. He had just assured his wife a day before his death that he believed in heaven and that God had prepared a home for him and that he was ready when God called him home. Andy drove a tanker fuel truck which had just gotten out of the company repair shop. He was two hours into his shift and ready to go.Something terribly went wrong and Andy veered of into an embankment hitting a power pole and the fuel ignited the truck. He die instantly. We have an older son,Matt who isn’t married and devastated. Both of my boys love Jesus. My husband spends a lot of time comforting my son and me. I know it has been only 9 days but the pain is so raw. This is harder
    than when my sister died of cancer a few years ago and now my oldest sister has small cell right lung cancer.

    John and I just moved to South Carolina last December. I feel torn and feel we need to or back to where our surviving son and grandkids live. I want to be in God’s will but am so heartbroken, all I can think about is I need to be by son, Matt. Please pray for us.we are in the scriptures daily but if there is a book you would recommend to and to my son, we would appreciate it. In Christ love, Sandy Lambert

    1. Lisa says:

      Sandy, I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost my brother to suicide 15 years ago and I remember how painful those first weeks were. I am praying for you now. May the peace of God which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. I’m praying you get the support and encouragement you and your family need at this very hard time. May you feel his presence very strongly in your lives right now! Blessings to you.

  10. Liz Conine says:

    Thank you both for sharing your stories. It really touched my heart. On August 20, 2015 I lost my oldest brother Pete. My husband and I had the wonderful privilege of leading him to the Lord a couple of years ago. Then,on September 25, 2015, the Lord used me again, this time to lead his youngest son, Marc, to the Lord. It was very bittersweet…

  11. Rita Kolnicky says:

    Dear Greg…(I love you) As I was posting your e-mail, he other day, it came to my mind to tell the Fb people, that you had lost a son, and at the time, I was listening to you on the Radio..and told them, “how you chocked on your words, for a while, due to “the horrible grief” of having lost the son you so loved…then, I found myself crying as I recalled those Sad moments, dear Greg..oh! & Please, say Hi to Cathie ‘your wife’….Love you & Be Blessed.xxxxx

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