by Abby Rike
In the days following the wreck, no one could understand how I was doing so well. No one could understand why I was not crazy. No one really knew what to expect, but they came anyway. The amount of support from the people of our community was extremely comforting, and to see the multitude of lives Rick and my family had touched brought consolation. But as my mind digested the reality of the wreck, I knew all eyes were on me. I decided very early on that I would never be anyone's stumbling block. I was going to be an example to our beloved students. After the accident, I had to take an immediate assessment of my beliefs and ask, Do I really believe what I think I believe? And the answer I always came back to was a definite Yes. I do.
Those who came to sit beside me that night said that I looked different, that I was almost glowing. It was as if God had laid a blanket of peace over my shattered heart. And I knew that this was a pivotal point in my life. It is easy to have faith and proclaim your love for the Lord when you have a perfect life—very easy. And people will sometimes dismiss you. But it's an entirely different thing when those beliefs remain the same through a tragedy beyond anything people can imagine. I had always been very grounded in my faith, but never had God's love for me been so tangible. I was a living example of the concept of a peace that passes all understanding. I should have been catatonic; I should have prostrate in despair and never gotten up after this. But because of God's grace I did. GodŐs grace was and is sufficient.
"It was as if God had laid a blanket of peace over my shattered heart."
A few days after I buried my husband and two children, the humanness of grief hit. I went for a walk outside, attempting to clear my head of the overwhelming emptiness I felt. I was completely alone and heartbroken as I walked around my parents' backyard under the shade of an oak tree. The Glad Oak (as my mother had always called it) was the site where Rick and I vowed to love each other forever— where our two lives were ceremonially joined as one. Three years earlier Rick, Macy, and I stood beneath that very oak and promised that only death would ever separate us. With silent tears I paced the acres of my parents' land, calling out to God. "Lord, what do I do? What do You want me to do with my life? I'm open. I'm willing. What do I do? Help me."
Suddenly, two little yellow butterflies caught my eye. They emerged seemingly out of nowhere, and I watched as they flew, playing and dancing around each other, fluttering freely in the air with a childlike grace. Struck by their beauty, I looked on as a huge orange monarch butterfly lovingly swooped down over them. It soared directly toward me and flew in a circle around my body, swaddling me in a blanket of warmth, then coming to land inches from my feet. The ethereal creatures stayed only moments, but they left me with a powerful, overwhelming sense of peace. And I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I'd been given the gift I so desperately needed. My family was together, their souls transcending death, and they were okay. Just as I will also be okay again one day. And I expressed my gratitude to God.
Thank You for caring enough to send a broken soul a little glimmer of hope. The people that made me a better me are gone. What now? What do I do now? What plan does God have for me? If I have to suffer like this, then I want my life to matter. I want to know what I'm supposed to do. I want to know my plan. I am shattered and I'm trusting with childlike faith that God will put me back together again. This loss cannot be for naught.
— Abby Rike, written December 3, 2006, 1:00 a.m