Inhale Grace, Exhale Gratitude: Reflections on Scott’s Wonderful Life

Associate Professor of Communication Scott Johnson, Ph.D.

Scott Johnson, Ph.D., associate communication professor, passed away on January 3, 2011 from complications with cancer. He was 54-years-old.

“Why love, if losing hurts so much? I have no answers anymore: only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I’ve been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.”

Jack from “Shadowlands” by C.S. Lewis

That’s the deal; pain and happiness are part of reality and we choose our response. This quote from C.S. Lewis, in the play Scott directed a couple of years ago at Little Flower Church in South Bend, Ind., is about the love and suffering of Jack Lewis and Joy Greshem, as she slowly loses her life to cancer. Anyone who has had the privilege of knowing Scott Johnson, saw first-hand, everyday, how a Christian disciple chooses to face suffering honestly, while living well and loving others with the heart of the Master. He chose to inhale grace and exhale gratitude.

Scott was my colleague and mentor in our discipline, but he was also my dear friend, one I will miss more than these few words can express. In his rather open argument with cancer, Scott honestly shared his suffering in ways that always pointed to reality: how to live, mentor and teach in the shadow of death, and how to honor God well when something has gone terribly wrong.

Scott loved others most notably in his teaching and mentoring. In his teaching, and particularly in this final semester when he was most ill, he was always thinking about his students and how well they were learning. He also cared about their real lives. More than once, Scott and his wife, Carolynn, helped students find housing when they had no place to go. Often, a student would drift into his office just to talk and found that Scott would offer the gift of a listening heart.

During my final Ph.D. days, Scott offered to proctor my two-day comprehensive exam, giving up a fall break weekend. I was nervous as a poodle, and he helped me calm down and focus through the process. I will miss walking across the hall and arguing politics, and discussing religion and rhetoric with him.

Most of all, Scott loved his wife and loved Jesus. Many of us remember how he shared at a faculty retreat how we should inhale and receive God’s grace, and then exhale, and share grace with others. He loved Christ and accepted that discipleship could lead to the cross. Scott chose to act justly, love mercifully and walk humbly with his God. This passage he often quoted from Habakkuk 3:17-19, reflects his attitude:

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.

Scott, you will be missed and have left us with an example of how we should live.

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