Liahona
It’s a Great Day to Be Grateful


“It’s a Great Day to Be Grateful,” Liahona, Oct. 2022.

Digital Only: Portraits of Faith

It’s a Great Day to Be Grateful

We found that by sharing hope, we found hope. Our goal became to help others, as well as ourselves, to prepare for eternity.

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James and Cristi Koch

Photographs courtesy of the Koch family

Cristi: They said I had about two years to live. I told James I would understand if this was more than he wanted to take on. “This is your chance to get out,” I said. But he said, “I’d rather be with you. We’ll fight the cancer together and do whatever we can. We’ll take whatever time in this life Heavenly Father will give us. Just remember, we’re in this for eternity.” And he is right, you know. An eternal marriage doesn’t end just because one of you moves into the next life.

James: I knew she was who I wanted to be sealed to. We had both been married before, and I fasted and prayed for a long time to find her. I prepared to be worthy of her and to be a husband who would take care of her. I wasn’t going to just walk away from that.

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James and Cristi Koch

Cristi and James were sealed in the Draper Utah Temple.

Cristi: We decided we wanted to do all we could to be happy now and happy in eternity.

James: We’ve both always been physically active, and we decided to keep doing the things we love for as long as we could—running, hiking, swimming, traveling, dirt biking, and riding motorcycles. And we love spending time with our family. Even after surgeries to remove tumors from her chest and her back, Cristi kept doing as much as she could for as long as she could. At the same time, she started doing other things she felt needed to be done too.

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James and Cristi Koch

Cristi: From previous marriages, James had five children and I had four. I decided I needed to write letters to them. So, I wrote this whole box of letters, and guess what—years have passed since then, and now my arm is so swollen and full of tumors that I can’t write anymore. Just a few days ago I tried to write a letter to my daughter for her birthday, and my arm was in such horrible pain that I was out of breath. So, writing those letters when I did was inspiration. I’m glad I listened to that prompting because now I wouldn’t be able to do it.

James: Cristi has this Christlike ability to see the good in others. She has a deep testimony of her Savior and a great desire to do missionary work.

Cristi: I remember trying to bargain with the Lord. For a while, it was like, “Come on, heal me. I want to gather Israel!” I tried to boss God around, but it didn’t work. Then I thought, “OK, my name, Cristi, means ‘follower of Christ.’ While I’m still here, I want to bring as many souls to Christ as I can.

James: And that led to another prompting.

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James and Cristi Koch

Cristi shared her challenges but also shared upbeat messages of faith.

Cristi: I started doing a social media message each day, a little message of hope and love. I called it “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive.” People started hearing about it. My sister-in-law was an atheist, but she said, “Will you start sending me your messages?” Over time she became a believer, and now she’s a member of the Church. And my brother started reading the messages. They helped him to find faith again. Now he’s active in the Church.

James: I was traveling a lot for work, going to small towns in Texas and Georgia. Cristi often went with me. We’d meet people we wanted to stay in touch with, and she would say, “Can I send you one of my messages? Then you can decide if you want to keep receiving them.”

Cristi: The number of people who wanted my messages kept growing. Now there are about 200. Some are Church members; some are not. For a long time, I sent out a thought every day, but now that’s getting harder and harder. I think the messages will be like a little history. When I’m gone, my family and friends will still have my witness about what I know is true.

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James and Cristi Koch

James and Cristi both agreed, “We’re in this for eternity.”

James: What she has written will help us to keep an eternal perspective. She keeps telling me she’ll be watching over me, watching over us. We want to be an eternal family. That’s the real goal.

Cristi: It’s been seven years since I was diagnosed. As it gets harder to write my message, I sometimes call it, “It’s a Great Day to Be Grateful.” I am so grateful for Jesus Christ and His Atonement. I think of the words of the hymn “Count Your Blessings.”1 If we lose everything in this life, we still have the promise that families can be forever. We can always count that blessing, and it will lift us.

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James and Cristi Koch

Cristi filled her life with hope and helped others to do the same.