Whitney Cerak

We, the Cerak family, are elated beyond description at Whitney’s return home. It is so much more than we ever imagined three months ago.We would like to restate our plans of not speaking to the media. There is still much on the road to Whitney’s full recovery. We want to thank the media for the respect they have shown of our privacy in this time. And ask that the same courtesy given us would be extended to our family and friends.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

August 30,2006

“I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement...” Philemon 1:4-7 NIV

As we write this final entry, we do so with heartfelt gratitude to all of you who have kept up with us and sent words of encouragement and comfort. We have been overwhelmed by the care and concern you have shown to Whitney and to our family. Your prayers have been so appreciated and we know they have been a part of Whitney’s miraculous recovery.

We continually lift up to God Almighty the families of Laurel Erb, Betsy Smith, Brad Larson, Monica Felver and Laura VanRyn. We pray for God’s comfort and strength as you deal with the heartache of your losses. To Vicki, Connie and Michelle we pray for your continued recovery. May God grant you His peace as well.

Whitney has had quite a busy schedule over the past few days. On Thursday she met with her new therapists in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. They are as high a caliber as those she has had before. We have been very thankful for the skilled and competent people that have been a part of Whit’s recovery road. God, in His faithfulness, continues to go ahead of us. We have learned over time of His constancy, but it has definitely been engraved on our hearts and in our minds throughout this journey with Whitney. Whitney will be using her course books in her speech therapy which will be an enormous help in her actual class work. The physical therapist, a London native, will be working with her to develop strength in her hip muscles so that limp will disappear, as will the pain in her lower back caused by the limp. The occupational therapy will be a big help to her as she keeps her focus on getting her drivers licence reinstated. We never stop being thankful for the able people God has put in Whitney’s journey to full recovery.

Then it was back to Grand Rapids that same day. We stayed the night with our very good friends in Rockford. Then Friday Whitney met with Dr. Vandenberg who has been the doctor that has overseen her entire therapies. He is very pleased wit her progress adding that with continued therapy she will progress just fine. Dr. Ringler, who performed the surgery on her ankle, met with Whitney next. He took x-rays that showed how well her bones are healing. We are in awe of the miracle of Whitney’s healing, both physically and mentally. Finally, we were off to Upland, Indiana and Taylor University.

On Saturday morning, Whitney, Carly, Colleen and I met with a few Taylor administrators. They have been very concerned with Whitney’s recovery as well as her return to college. They have been gracious and accommodating making Whit feel very welcomed. Then the final move onto campus and into her room. Whitney was so excited and anxious as we all were. After connecting with her roommate, Emily, all of her things were moved in and she took charge of getting it all put away. It was fun to see her interact with all who came by to greet her. She was gracious and sweet like the Whitney we know. She spent Friday night with Carly and the girls of ‘the Abby’ just off campus. It was a great night for her, tasting the independence she has cherished. Saturday night was spent in her room with Emily and it has already done her a world of good. We met Carly and Whitney for breakfast on Sunday morning and Whit had a radiant smile, a new perkiness about her and we enjoyed the laughter and treasured the moment with them. When Colleen and I left we were satisfied she was where she belonged. Whitney said something interesting on the trip to T.U. She called T.U. home and asked if it bothered us she thought of it that way. As we drove away we were thankful she did.

We will always be thankful for all of you who have prayed to the living God on our behalf. We believe still that God has been more than evident through it all. His presence has been all that we have needed and ever needed. His power and wisdom to work in the midst of this entire past four months is beyond our understanding. We praise His name for the good that has come as a result. God has been gracious to give strength and comfort, He alone deserves our worship and adoration. Even in the time of distress, heartache, uncertainty and tragedy, He remains constant and faithful. We have been to both ends of the emotional spectrum and through it all He has been there. Even in the aftermath He lovingly holds all effected by the accident. I look forward to the day when we join our voices together and sing... ‘I stand, I stand in awe of You; I stand, I stand in awe of You; Father God to whom all praise is due, I stand in awe of You.’

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2Thessalonians 2:16 NIV

In Christ alone,

Whitney’s Family

Saturday, August 19, 2006

August 18, 2006

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that his all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." 2 Corinthians 4:7

It is hard to believe that we have been home for over a week. The time has flown as Whitney feels she needs to fit her summer into two weeks.(she is doing pretty good)

A highlight for all of us was last Sunday, our first Sunday together in our home church since Easter. It was a celebration. We were all nervous and excited to share with our church family how God had met each one of our needs and how He loved us this summer. The church stood and clapped as Whitney and the family walked up to the front. We each took a moment to share God’s faithfulness. To God, who is the master physician, healer and our provider, we give him all the glory for all He has done and continues to do. It just happened to be our churches annual picnic so we had a great afternoon reconnecting and Whitney definitely got her quota of hugs and kisses.

It has been great to be home, sleep in our own beds, sit around our table for home cooked meals and laugh. Hunter(our dog) and Taylor(our cat)are so glad we are home. I do need to tell you one funny and embarrassing story. We let Hunter out Friday afternoon and he usually stays in the yard. Later on I went to the door and whistled and he didn’t come. I made dinner and still no Hunter. After dinner we went for a ride around the neighbor hood calling for him. We drove to the Animal Shelter and peeked in the window and there he was barking at us! It was after hours so he had to spend the night. Whitney got up early Saturday morning to go spring Hunter, on the way she said she wished Hunter could talk and tell us of his adventure. Our neighbors took great care of him all summer and our first night home, he gets picked up. ( he went across the street to the park with out his licence)

Whitney has enjoyed every minute with her friends. It was perfect timing as many of them are starting to head back to college. She loved being able to go to La Senoritas for “Wing Night” a special tradition for her and her friends. The weather has been great and she has had a few visits to the lake and some evening bon fires. She has been getting an hour a day of physical therapy to continue gaining back some muscles and endurance. Again we have been blessed by another great therapist.

Carly enjoyed this past week being home, relaxing and visiting with friends. She left today to head back to Taylor for her senior year. She is excited and went back a few days early to be with friends and get her house ready. She is going to have a great year living with five amazing girls.

Sandra had some great news as she found out she had been accepted to represent the “Invisable Children” on a world tour this year (Sept-May). The Invisable Children is an organization that Sandra had heard about this spring and really tugged at her heart. She came home at Easter and showed us a video explaining their mission. Carly and Whitney also got interested and were going to participate in their “Global Commute” on April 29th (Whitney’s birthday). We had chosen Invisable Children as the memorial for Whitney. Sandra is putting her passion into action as she will give a year to work for them. I love her heart and willingness to give of herself and serve God by helping others.

Newell is back to work, saying goodbye to the college students and preparing for the fall. I have been enjoying putzing around the house and yard, catching up with friends and neighbors. We were all kind of worried about coming home, not sure how the media would handle this next step in Whitney’s recovery, but it has been great and we are so appreciative on how respectful everyone has been. The Gaylord community has been so loving and gracious with us throughout.

As our lives return to normal we continue to pray for those families who are continuing to adjust to the changes. We continue to seek God and listen to what he wants us to learn from all this. Even though we long to be back to normal we don’t want to be like the Isrealites who saw God in action (Red Sea parted, manna every morning, water from a rock . . . ) and soon after each miracle they forgot and fell back into their old routines. We want to keep our dependance and desire for God as we have felt Him is such a real way and seen His love in action. This Psalm became a favorite when we thought Whitney was gone and it is still our prayer:
“O God you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live.” Psalms 63: 1-4

With love,
Whitney’s mom

Saturday, August 12, 2006

August 11, 2006 "Never will I leave you..."

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” ...Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:5-6; and verse 8 NIV

Hi, everyone reading the blog, this is Whitney!! It feels good to finally be the person who updates you about...me! These past 3 months have been life changing for so many and everyone has had a different experience, including me.

I can clearly remember the past 18 years of my life, even up to the banquet before the accident. The next thing I can remember after that is seeing Carly, Sandra and Mom and crying a lot. I know there is a 5 week period that I do not recall. Hearing about it is weird for me because everyone else has memories about me that I do not. Some people came to visit me at the hospital, and a few of those were the VanRyns. I know they were with me constantly during the first five weeks, but their visit was all I can remember. They are very nice people and it was funny to hear how I acted when I first came out of my coma. When I found out that five other people were killed in the accident I was really sad. I can vaguely remember part of the ride back to Taylor. We were all laughing and having a good time. I feel so badly for the other families. I don’t know why this all happened, but the only good thing about all of this is that the message of God was heard in a powerful way. I know my experience is different from everyone else’s but God has taught me He is FAITHFUL because He is with us every step of the way, even in the hardest times of our lives. And it is clear that He has been with me the last few months. My recovery has been hard work, but I thank God for healing me in every way.

It is strange to find out my family and friends had a funeral for me, but they told me God was faithful even during that time. It is so hard to believe that this story is all over the news and so many people know about me. Even though I don’t know many of you who are reading what I am writing about my life, I am so thankful to have had your prayers.

I am just so excited that I am home and going back to Taylor in a few weeks! I can’t wait to live my normal life again. So consider this the one and only blog entry from me, concluding this season of my life.


From the Family: It’s been a privilege for us to share with you this miracle God put into our life’s journey. We know for sure that only with God holding and guiding us could we have made it thus far. We all have been praying for what God wants us to do and learn from this experience. We want to get back into our ‘normal’ routine of life, but we also know that God has allowed this to happen for a reason. We plan to blog two more times; updating our experiences of our return to home and the last to be Whitney’s return and settling back into life at Taylor.
We pray for the families who continue to remain strong under the heartache and strain of their losses. Please keep the VanRyns, the Larsons, the Smiths, the Erbs, the Felvers, Connie, Vicki and Michelle covered in prayer.

Thanks for sharing this journey with us.

With love,
In Christ alone, The Ceraks

Friday, August 11, 2006

Aurgust 10,2006

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."
1 Corinthians 10:31

Today, Thursday was a great day. Each patient at Hope has a "Family Day". It is a day to go to the therapies with your family member and talk with the therapists and try the activities and have a real feel for what every day life is like. The only disappointment was that Newell was not able to join us. In each therapy the therapist explained what they were doing and we watched Whitney in action. It was so encouraging to hear the progress and to also see the progress as some showed us where she started when she came to Hope. After lunch, friends and family had a special time where therapists, workers and other patients had a chance to say something encouraging to Whitney. It was almost more than my heart could hold as I listened to the positive words and love being given. We were able to celebrate Whitney's accomplishments and encourage her efforts for the goals still to be reached. Hope is an appropriate name for the rehab center as it has given Whitney the hope of returning back to school, home and her "normal self". We were so pleased with her hard work and accomplishemnts and thankful to all who have prayed, loved and encouraged her.

Made me think of God having "Family Day" with us. He wanted to experience everything first hand so he sent his son Jesus down to the earth. He experienced everything we experience, love, pain, hurt, disapointments, friendships, family life, work and everything that comes with a physical human body. God watched as "Jesus grew in wisdom and stature"(Luke 2:52) and He said two times outloud for all the hear "This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17 and Matthew 17:5)

I am so thankful to serve a God that loves me so much that he came down to live life on earth to show me how by example and left me a guide book when I have questions. He gave me so many promises that I know He keeps true. I not only believe in God but I believe God. He promises not to give us more than we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13), he promises never to leave us or forsake us(Hebrews 13:5) and he promises everlasting life to those who put their trust in Him (John 3:16). These promises and many more helped me and can help those still working through the grieving and loss. Not everyone has the happy ending like Whitney but we all have a happy ending with God in heaven.

" For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

With love,
Whitney's mom

Thursday, August 10, 2006

August 9, 2006

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not comsumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23

The alarm went off at 5:15 AM! We had to be at the hospital at 6AM. I slept in the room with Whitney (Carly spent the night at Spring Lake). Whitney had some wires and screws in her elbow that were close to the surface and causing some discomfort. We were lucky to get the same doctor that put the rod in her leg, remove the screws. Whitney was nervous but excited to get it done. The surgery went great and we were back at Hope by 2:30 PM. Can you believe Whitney even went to a few therapies when she returned. Whitney rested then we had a special birthday dinner celebration for Laisa (Sandras sister). Carly was also celebrated completing her internship (which she loved). The evening was filled with laughter and great conversation and I was proud to be in the great company of Carly, Whitney, Sandra and Laisa. There is something very special about sisters.

"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." John 15:12

"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." 1 Timothy 4:12

With love,
Whitney's mom

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

August 8, 2006

"You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Psalms 16:11

Whitney had a good day but felt a little tired. She used alot of energy in physical therapy walking backwards, walking fast and even tried jogging(she told me I can beat her now, but watch out). She worked on organizing skills in speech therapy. We know she is going to need that with all that comes in college life. During occupational therapy she used fresh blueberries and made oatmeal blueberry cookies. No joke, they were delicious. I never knew you could make blueberry cookies. I think I'm loving occupational therapy and hope they continue it for a long time!

Early evening we got inspired and tried to do our own school shopping. Sandra(expert shopper) was there to help but some things dont change. We were in the first store and Whitney said she was tired of shopping(I think she is going to use this excuse forever). We lasted about an hour and found a few cute things.

We went to bed early as Whitney needs to be at the hospital at 6AM to remove some screws in her elbow. They are close to the skin and causing a little discomfort. I'm sure all will be fine and we are thankful that we could get it taken care of.

"Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. I said to the Lord, You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing." Psalms 16:1

With love,
Whitney's mom

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

August 7, 2006

"Let the peace of Chirst rule in your heart." Colossians 3:15

Peace - how can you have peace in the middle of a busy schedule, change, planning for the unknown future? Only one way, to allow the Prince of Peace to govern your life. I can't describe the peace I felt as I sat and listed how God has been with us (really two steps ahead of us) this summer. Not the best planner could of organized and ordered how everything has played out for everyone of our family. The list filled my page. Another piece of the puzzle just that filled in was signing Whitney up for classes. We had chosen 3 classes (6 hours total) and they were all available, perfect time of the day (not 8AM) and perfect for working with Whitneys rehab schedule. The classes are all ones Whitney is excited to take. Carly is also excited because they had planned to take a golf class together this fall and that class fits perfectly into Whitneys schedule. Let's hope all those years working on the golf course will pay off. I dont know how great their game will be but I do know they will have a great time.

Whitney's days in rehab are now focusing on the goal of preparing her for back to school. Work is easier when you have a goal to work toward and this one is getting so close it is exciting.

Whitney's day had a fun twist when some Gaylord friends came to Grand Rapids to school shop (no mall in Gaylord) It was fun to visit with them. She ended the evening going to a movie then back to her roommates house for warm homemade cookies.

We thank God as he continues to fit each piece of our puzzle in place. "May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at ALL times and in EVERY way. The Lord be with all of you." 2 Thessalonians 3:16

With love,
Whitney's mom