I won't attempt to tell the whole story, but here is the condensed version. On April 26 a semi crossed the median of an Interstate highway and hit a Taylor University van. Taylor is a small Christian college in northeastern Indiana. The reports came out that 4 students and one staff member were killed in the crash.
Listed among the dead was 18 year old Whitney Cerak (right). Badly injured was 22 year old Laura VanRyn (left).
The dead were mourned and buried. The university awarded them posthumous diplomas. VanRyn's family stayed by Laura's bedside as she finally awoke from her coma and began to interact slowly with those around here. Laura's sister began a blog to share Laura's progress with hundreds of friends, classmates and well-wishers.
The blog reads like many similar journals kept to inform friends and family during a long illness. Laura began to make noises and eventually form a few words. At one point she was handed pen and paper and asked to write her name. This is taken from the post from Lisa VanRyn on Wednesday -- about 36 hours prior to the time I type this:
What may come to us as a shock, does not shock the One who made us. We have some hard news to share with you today. Our hearts are aching as we have learned that the young woman we have been taking care of over the past five weeks has not been our dear Laura, but instead a fellow Taylor student of hers, Whitney Cerak. There was a misidentification made at the time of the accident and it is uncanny the resemblence that these two women share. Their body types are similar, their hair color and texture, their facial features, etc. Over the past couple of days, as Whitney had been becoming more aware of her surroundings, she'd been saying and doing some things that made us question whether or not she was Laura. Yesterday, we talked with a Spectrum staff member and began the process of making a positive ID. We now know without a doubt, that this is Whitney.
The family who thought they had lost a daughter experienced the joy of seeing her back again almost five weeks after they had laid her to rest. The other family who had kept a vigil at bedside found that their daughter was long gone.
In one family I see the amazing rebirth and the words of the parable ring through my mind: "We had to celebrate and be glad. For he was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is now found."
Then I feel the gutwrenching heartache of the VanRyns, who have gone from watching their daughter making good progress to realizing that she has been dead for five weeks.
The latest post on the blog is from Carly Cerak, Whitney's sister. It has only been posted for two hours and already there are 70+ comments. Here is the heart of that post:
I couldn't get this verse out of my head as we drove down to Grand Rapids. I did not believe my sister was in the hospital; I thought for sure this was a mistake. When I walked into the hospital room I was shocked and overcome with joy. Soon after we saw Whitney, our family met with the Van Ryns and our joy for ourselves was pushed aside by the pain we felt for them. It is hard because our joy is their pain. The Van Ryns have been amazing to Whitney and we are privileged that if under any care besides ours that she was under their great care. However, we know the pain they now feel all too well and our hearts break with them. There is a deep connection that has been made between our families and together we look to God as we walk through this.
The heartening thing about each of these families is the faith they have shown in their own circumstances. There is every reason for bitterness from the VanRyns, but that is not what they have shown. One would expect the Ceraks to be unconcerned for the VanRyns, but that's not the case. Their own joy is tempered with acknowledging the hurt that is present in their own happiness.
God is our God in good times and in bad times. Perhaps there is no better example than this ride with two families on an emotional rollercoaster of life and death.
Please remember these families in your prayers.