I’ve been watching the Dateline special, “A Twist of Fate” about the tragic mistaken identity story regarding Laura Van Ryn and Whitney Cerak. What an absolutely gripping, tragic and ponderous story.
When the news first broke about the misidentification of these two girls, I was in the midst of dealing with my wife’s long
term hospitalization and possible death. I remember leaving a message of sorrow for the Van Ryn family on their blog and receiving such a sweet, generous personal reply.
There is one person who stands out to me throughout the coverage of the anniversary of this event. She’s the sister of Laura, Lisa Van Ryn. The title of this blog entry – “A Brave Woman, Mature Beyond Her Years” – refers to her. She is a remarkable young lady. Her wisdom is overwhelming. Her maturity shines even more brightly than her Christ-filled smile. Watching her in the interview with Matt Lauer, I was continually dumbstruck at the words flowing from her, laced with peace and joy in the face of sorrow. Despite having to face the reality that after five weeks, the girl she had been a part of nursing and nurturing was not her sister after all, her composure validated the living words of scripture.
To a degree, one could explain Lisa’s remarkable nature by relating it to the iron-in-fire-refining of the hospital experience. Without question, there is much truth in that. However, I see a woman who had been made of much stronger steel than most. In both families involved, there is a profound witness of the power and greatness of Jesus that puts any argument against the reality and relevance of a resurrected Christ to shame. The Van Ryns and Ceraks will impact lives into the generations ahead. But I am particularly and proudly moved by Lisa’s high character. What a remarkable person.
Here’s a brief excerpt from the interview:
Lisa Van Ryn: Well, when we were in that therapy session, she was throwing a ball to me and they kept telling her, “throw it to your sister.” And everything in me wanted to say, “it’s not my sister.” It was like I knew right then as they were saying it that it wasn’t right, but didn’t want to confuse her. And so I didn’t say anything in the session. But when we got out into the hallway, it was a quiet moment just with her on our way back to her room. And I just remember it very clearly. Stopping and sort of kneeling down, kind of coming face-to-face with her. And not offering any information to her. But just saying, “You did awesome today. You’re doing really well. I just want to ask you a question. Can I ask you a question?” And she nodded her head. And I said, “Can you tell me your name?” And she said, “Whitney.” And I said, “That’s so good. You’re doing so good.” And I asked her her parents names and she was able to tell me, “Newell and Colleen.” And that was the clincher for me. I knew Laura would not know that. And I told Whitney, I said, “You’re doing so well. Do you want to go back to your room?” And she just nodded. I said, “Here we go.”
Matt Lauer: When I read that, Lisa, it knocked the wind out of me. But you know what else I thought? What a fabulous response you had. What a moment of generosity that was to Whitney. You didn’t get up and run screaming down the hall and create more trauma for her.
Lisa Van Ryn: Well, I loved her. We loved her.
It is sad that Laura has gone. But what a great world it is to have Lisa. I pray that God can use me to even a degree that He’s used her.