As I look out the window in my computer room this morning, yesterday’s snow has already been cleared off the driveway.

And yet, as is the case after many snowfalls, there is a noticeable stillness in the air.

A quiet presence, some might even say, if they stop long enough to pay attention.

This week, for many people in Streator and the surrounding area, our hearts have been reduced to silence, with the loss of one of our own, a beautiful, radiant, vibrant young woman on the verge of marriage in just two weeks.

A woman whose life was grounded in Christ, and as he called himself “the light of the world,” those of us who were blessed to know her even for a little bit, got a glimpse of that Light, as it shone through her heart and all her selfless actions done in him and for him.

There really are no words in the face of such a horrific tragedy.


Yesterday, I went to pick up my niece as we had some errands to run. Usually when she gets in the car, we start talking right away. After she closed the door and I started driving to our destination, there was in the car a palpable silence, a quiet presence, if you will.

I think in that silence, our hearts were still communicating in a quiet way. We both felt the heaviness and shock of what had just happened. Even without words, there was a connection. We knew the sadness, confusion, utter helplessness, and, yes, the awareness of the fragility of life, each was feeling. We were on the same wavelength.

Regular readers of this column will know that the loss of someone so young, so full of promise and potential, is not new to me.

In the summer of 1989, when I was just 17 years old, my 12-year-old cousin Chris died in a hit-and-run accident.

Like this young woman, Chris was bright, vibrant and full of potential. He also had a growing faith in Christ, and always went out of his way to do the right thing.

That Light shone through him too.

My cousin Tricia, who had seen some posts on Facebook about this young woman’s death, texted me this morning to ask me about it. Tricia and Chris had grown up together, were in the same class in school in Toluca, and spent many summers and weekends together at their parents’ houses. In many ways, they were more like brother and sister than cousins.

I told her to the community, losing this young woman, was like our losing Chris.

That was all she needed to know, to understand.

Shocking. Unexplainable. Unfair. Anguishing. Horrifically tragic and sad.

My family was blessed to know this young woman. She was a cousin to one of my nieces. And my other niece and nephews attend the same church she attended and once worked at. She was a mentor and a model for them in living a genuinely Christian life. In hearing about her loss, I think, sadly, they experienced some of the same emotions we felt all those years ago when Chris died, including uncontrollable sobbing.

As time goes on, this incredible loss will evolve and change the hearts of everyone who knew her in ways unimaginable at this time.

Learning to live life with our loved ones no longer visible to us, but nevertheless still only a breath away, takes grief, anguish, suffering, patience, compassion.

And time.

This process cannot be rushed.

It must be lived.

We must sit and experience our sorrow, our rage, our frustration, and gradually let them go into the arms of the one who gives us a Peace beyond all understanding.

And now, walks with Chris on one side, and Chelsea on the other.

Rest in peace, Beautiful Soul.

SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines spirituality in The Times' readership area. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at to share how you engage your spirit in your life and in your community.

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