I was devastated by the story of the identity mix-up of Laura VanRyn and Whitney Cerak. This commentary and poem addresses some of the issues that Laura VanRyn’s family and friends are now facing. I apologize for not asking for permission to post this on the internet, but I have no way to contact the families. I think after the family reads what I have written, they will not care about my getting their permission. I also felt that I had to get this article and poem to them as soon as possible. I hope and pray that you will all find this article and that it will encourage you.I would really appreciate any feedback at services@desertsnow.org.   Randy Stahla

Author: Randy Stahla, copyright 2006.

If you have not read the story of what happened, you can do a search on Laura VanRyn or go to this link:

When The Apparent is Transparent


Sometimes God hides things from us. This is very easy, considering our limitations.


Have you ever put something down momentarily and then searched for hours to find it? Have you ever purchased diet soda when you meant to buy regular? Have you ever said “Hello” to someone of mistaken identity?

It seems like we can always find something if we’re not looking for it. We search diligently for items that are right in front of us, but we can’t see them.

The obvious is oblivious. The apparent is transparent. The loud and clear is what we can’t hear.

Overcome with grief, two men walked on a road to a city called Emmaus. Jesus had died 3 days earlier. But they were soon to find out that he had risen from the dead! Jesus came alongside them and started listening to their conversation.

They told Jesus all about everything that had happened over the last 3 days, and Jesus acted like He didn’t know a thing they were talking about. They didn’t recognize him. He asked them (basically) “What in the world are you talking about?”

They were stunned. Luke 24:17 says that they stopped, and “Stood still, looking sad.” How could anyone not know what had just happened? Jesus told them finally, “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:26).

But even after Jesus explained why all these things had to happen, they didn’t recognize Him until He broke bread with them (Luke 24:31). “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him…”

Why did these terrible things happen to Jesus?

“It was necessary.” It wasn’t fun, or something that anyone would want to have happen. But it was necessary. Why?

As we look back, we can come up with all kinds of reasons as to why Jesus had to die. But to the people who lived then, who were so overcome by grief that they couldn’t stop talking about the past few day’s events, it was a complete mystery. None of their plans had worked out. And they didn’t recognize Jesus at all, even though they had spent 3 years with the person who was walking right beside them!

Severe injuries Jesus had received didn’t go away after he rose from the dead. In heaven, we will see the scars on His hands and feet. They will always be there to remind us of His love for us. Perhaps severe injuries are part of the reason they couldn’t recognize Jesus.

The following poem is written for those who waited and prayed at a girl’s hospital bedside thinking it was their loved one, when in fact she had gone to be with the Lord weeks earlier. Laura VanRyn went to heaven when people thought she was still alive due to a mistaken identity.

This is a terrible tragedy. Laura was killed in a traffic accident, and the events that followed Laura’s death turned disappointment into a monster that threatens to undo the faith of her family and friends.

Things were bad enough after the accident. But was this unsettling, terrible state of confusion really necessary?

I wonder what God will say one day if we ask Him – “Was that really necessary?” I wonder what will happen because of these events? I wonder what God is doing.

What was God doing two milleniums ago? God “forgot” his own Son, so that He could remember us. For God so loved the world, He gave His only forgotten Son (I misquoted John 3:16 on purpose). And afterward, Jesus said, “It was necessary.”

Jesus said, “He is not the God of the dead, but He is the God of the living.” Laura is in eternity. Whitney Cerak (who was in the accident with Laura, but lived through it), is still alive. But Jesus said that they are both alive.

Someday, I see Laura rejoicing to see her friend Whitney again in eternity, on the other side of the crystal door. This is my term for the doorway of death. Laura went through, and Whitney didn’t.

We mistook the identity of the one who stayed and the one who left and went to heaven. But God didn’t. He knows “Every sparrow that falls.” The disciples on the way to Emmaus couldn’t recognize Jesus. But Jesus knew them. He knew them on both sides of the crystal door.


Crystal Door


A crystal door opened for Laura

The day she went away

No one here could see the road

When she walked on heaven’s way


A crystal door opened for Laura

The day she went away

No one knew that she was gone

- Not right away.


We came and showed our love and care

We came and gave all we had to share

We did our best to raise her up

But she had left through a crystal door.


We waited in a hospital so very long

We didn’t know that she was gone

We thought that soon

She would be here once more

But she had left through a crystal door


Invisible is the crystal door

She went through weeks before

We couldn’t see that she was gone

And never got to say, “So long…”


There’s so little that we can do

God please help us

Get us through

Open our eyes to see you once more

Standing on the other side

Of the crystal door…




“Do not be afraid, I am the First and the Last, and the Living One, and I was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I hold the keys of death and hades.”


Revelation 1:17-18



6-08-06  Randy Stahla


In my imagination, I can see a kind of portal opening up through which Laura went through, and found a beautiful crystal door.

The pain Laura felt in this world is now over, and she is in eternity starting a whole new life.

If you would like to send stories, thoughts, or prayers to this site for posting, please send them to stories@desertsnow.org.

Randy Stahla

Read the second article dedicated to Laura’s family and friends.

Artwork is copyright 2006, Desertsnow.org and its licensors.

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Blue Ballerina” was written for those who have lost someone because of a crime.