Dear Ariana…

It is with a heavy heart I write this next blog post dedicated to one of my wife’s best friends, Ariana Garcia. On Christmas morning, my wife received the phone call that Ariana, who had been in the hospital since Christmas Eve from a car accident, didn’t make it. A flood of emotions overcame my wife as well as tears and questions from other friends and family.

Christmas Is Supposed To Be Happy, Right?

If you know anything about Christmas, you know that Christmas is supposed to be happy, right? I mean, look at these words…

In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas, children laughing, people passing, meeting smile after smile.  – Silver Bells

Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe, help to make the season bright.
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow, will find it hard to sleep tonight.  – 
The Christmas Song

Hark! how the bells, sweet silver bells, all seem to say, “Throw cares away.”
Christmas is here, bringing good cheer, to young and old, meek and the bold.  – Carol of the Bells

The lyrics are wonderfully written. They sound great. Some of them are my favorite Christmas songs. But here is the reality.

Last night, in our apartment, there was no smile after smile.
We weren’t able to “throw cares away” just because we heard the bells.
And turkey and mistletoe definitely didn’t make the season bright.

The only true statement was the fact that 22 year old Ariana Garcia was hurt in a car accident on Christmas Eve and we were going to “…find it hard to sleep tonight.”

Why Would God Let This Happen?

On Christmas Eve, while children fell asleep dreaming about what Santa will bring them, my wife went to bed afraid to look at her phone for fear of a text with bad news about Ariana. On Christmas morning, Susie’s phone rang. Afraid to answer, it was our friend Demi calling Susie to let her know Ariana had passed away…

… and the typical Christmas morning changed completely.

All my wife could do was cry and ask, “Why would God let this happen?”
As a husband, and as a pastor, it hurt me knowing all I could say in that moment was,
“I don’t know…”

And that’s the truth. I don’t know… but God knows. And I have to trust that God is in control.

Even when my wife’s best friend passes away, God is in control.
Even when my wife is crying herself to sleep not understanding why, God is in control.
Even when Ariana’s friends and family don’t understand, God is in control.
Even when I don’t understand why, I have to believe God is still in control.


As the reality began to sink in, my wife started thinking about all the things she wish she could say to Ariana now. If you’ve ever lost a loved one, you know the feeling. When you post something about Ariana, if you use #DearAriana, we will all be able to see and read our messages to Ariana together.

If I just had one more chance to see her, if she were here right now, this is what I would say to her trying not to cry…


Thank you so much for your friendship. I remember when my wife worked at Subway and how much she would talk about her two new friends Demi and Ariana. Susie loves you so much and loves hanging out with you. You were one of her best friends.

Thanks for coming by our apartment to hold our baby girl and see the baby room. Thanks for even texting my wife while she was pregnant to see how she was doing.

ariana post

One of the funniest moments I remember is when you were at our apartment and I offered a dark chocolate no-bake cookie to you and I’m pretty sure you didn’t like it because you didn’t finish it and gave it back to me as you left. Too funny. By the way, I still have the book you let me borrow. We’ll be sure to give it to Mike along with our Christmas card for you two.

Thank you for being there for my wife. Thank you for coming to our wedding.
I see even more now how much you meant to Susie. I won’t forget that.

– Josh

Take Heart, I Have Overcome The World

As I read my Bible looking for hope in the face of death, I am reminded of Jesus’ words. You know, Jesus, the baby boy celebrated on Christmas. Jesus spoke these words to us
… to me
… to you.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

My friends, take heart. A baby boy has come. A Savior has been born. He has overcome the world. In the darkest of times, Jesus is right there next to us, wrapping His arms of love around us. He holds us as we cry and mourn and yell asking, “Why?” Just like a good Father, He will never leave us. But take heart….

He has overcome the world.

#DearAriana, rest in peace sweet girl. We love you.

Each day given to us is a gift from God. He has a plan for my life and for your life. One of the best ways to live life is with Jesus Christ at your side. The best way to make the most of every day is to begin by realizing it is another day God has given you! Giving your life to Jesus is the best decision someone could ever make. If you shoot me an email or a Facebook message, I’d love to tell you more about how to begin living life to the fullest.
Other related posts:
#TeamChad – A post dedicated to Chad Walker
Where’s Hope In Times Like These? – A post written after the Boston Marathon bombings

8 Replies to “Dear Ariana…”

  1. I have never met Ariana, but I do know that grief really hurts. When you are as young as you, Suzie and Ariana it seems that a sudden and unexpected death can seem so unfair. After; all “older folks die, not younger ones.” But as your dad has shared so many times “we live in an imperfect world where imperfect things happen.” When a close friend or loved one dies at the holiday season it seems to make the death seem so much more tragic. Unfortunately, death never takes a vacation or holiday. We can ask ourselves a hundred times over the unanswerable question of “why.” People search for the answer to “why” but ultimately there are seldom any reasonable answers. You are correct that while we may try to understand the “why” we do know is in control – our Lord. We may understand that Ariana’s death was the result of an automobile accident, so that answers the “physical” question of “why” but then we are forced to dig deeper and ask God the spiritual question of “Why.”

    That’s where the tough part comes in, God doesn’t always answer our question. I am confident that over the many years of ministry both your dad and I would agree there are times we have to trust in God, that doesn’t mean we like it or understand it; but we still trust God. And it is when we can finally come to the realization of God’s sovereignty, whether we like it or not, that Ariana’s friends and family will experience a healthy grief journey. Right now, I am sure it is filled with questions after questions and yet even if we knew all the answers you would still grieve the death of someone special. In fact, you, Suzie and Ariana’s family will for years to come have this Christmas season as the “reminder” of Ariana’s death.

    For now, the answer to any question is the reality of loving family and friends that our Lord will send alongside to encourage, comfort and provide grace. For you and Susie these will be difficult days. perhaps even your first close experience with death. Allow yourselves to hug each other, the family and friends and draw your strength from our Lord. May our Lord give you His grace and peace at this time.


  2. Josh, my heart hurts for Ariana’s family and friends. There lives will never be the same. I prayed for them when I heard this tragic news and will continue to lift them up in prayer.

  3. So sad to hear about Ari. I used to babysit her and her sister when I was in high school. Very unexpected. I absolutely loved how goofy and free spirited she was. Praying for her family.

  4. ive never met ariana..but mike is family to me…i know how he is hurting. my deepest deepest condolences to arianas family to you and your wife and to my mike vowell…what is written here is so beautiful..thank you for sharing this

  5. What a beautiful way to help us all get through this terrible loss,I’ve been hurting with this news and understand that God is in .thanks josh and plz let Susie know I’m really sorry to hear this news,,,God has truelly gained a beautiful angel

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