Recently married 22 year-old Latter-day Saint passes away in car crash and donates liver to childhood friend's mother

by | Jun. 09, 2020

Caleb Johnson and Cory Derfler met in junior high school when Johnson was a peer mentor and Derfler, a student with autism, was in the same class. Their special friendship lasted through high school and during Johnson’s mission. 

When Johnson returned home, the Derflers were hoping to hire someone to help their son and offered the position to Johnson. For the next year, the two would spend hours playing together and going on daily walks, KSL reported.

No one could have expected how much dearer that friendship would become when Johnson passed away on May 30, 2020, from injuries he sustained in a car accident the day before. But Johnson’s tragic death also brought seven individuals a chance at a better life—each one was a recipient of an organ donation, including Cory's mother. 

Cory’s mother, Jamie, needed a liver transplant. According to KSL, among other factors, a liver transplant requires a matching blood type between donor and recipient. Tests confirmed that Johnson and Jamie were a perfect match. With that news came a flood of emotions for Jamie’s husband, Sean. 

"Out of tragedy did come a miracle," Sean told KSL. "I am sad, devastated and happy all at the same time. I never knew I could feel so many emotions. We are so sad that Caleb is gone, and so grateful that Jamie has a second chance at a healthy life. We are so grateful to the Johnson family—including Caleb’s wife, Marissa, who ultimately had to make the decision for the gift of life. It’s wonderful to know that Caleb will always be a part of us, and that he is continuing to serve our family from the other side."

Marissa and Caleb had been married less than a month before Caleb’s accident. Marissa shared some of her thoughts on her husband's passing in a post in her Instagram story.

"Hi friends, I am so overwhelmed by the love and strength from everyone," she wrote. "I really do believe Heavenly Father works in His own time and own way. My sweet husband Caleb has been pronounced brain dead this morning after a long night of tests and labs. The doctors cannot find any sign of neurological activity in his brain. The impact of the accident caused him to bleed and herniate. I am so devastated, distraught, and brokenhearted, but hopeful that I’ll see my lovely again. As many of you know, he is one of the most patient, kindhearted and loving people you’ll ever meet. Thank you for your prayers and love. I love him so much and I know y’all do too. I know he was just too good for this stage of the plan. I’ll keep y’all updated soon."

About a week after the accident, Marissa also shared a video on Instagram of her playing the Primary song "I Feel My Savior's Love" on the piano. Watch the video below.

Read the rest of the article at KSL.

Lead image: KSL screenshot

Emily Abel

Emily first found her love for storytelling as an editorial intern at LDS Living. She recently returned as a content writer and loves that her job is to highlight the meaningful in life. Emily is a graduate of Utah State University in English. Hiking trails, dance studios, and behind the cover of a good book are some of her favorite places to be.

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