Working through tragedy, one page at a time

- New Year's is a milestone of a different sort for the Mayer family, who don't celebrate so much as mourn the holiday's passage.

Fourteen years ago their family was wrenched apart by a tragic car accident that claimed the lives of Debbie Mayer's three daughters, and left those remaining searching for meaning in the wake of a horrific phone call that would alter their lives forever.

Mayer struggled for years to cope with the loss. She wrote journals and went to church, embracing a renewed faith through the bitter hardship she's faced. Now, Mayer has turned both into a book called "After the Crash," hoping to convince others to choose life after experiencing tragedy.

As Debbie Mayer reads a passage about the experience that day--and all the days since--the vivid emotions of the incident are clearly visible on her face.

"Stunned, Joe sat at the table—the phone held close to his ear. 'All three?'  My hand battered the table—NO!!" she writes in her book, After the Crash. "I slipped into a daze—vision blurred, stumbling in circle.”

The girls were headed to their brother's wedding that afternoon in Willmar, Minn., excited for a night of celebration with their closest friends and family members. But ecstasy turned to heartbreak in one terrible instant when a mini-van struck their car, killing all three.

“It’s something we continue to go through and will all of our lives,” Mayer said. “[There were times] I would have to stop and cry.”

Mayer credits her family's deep faith for getting them through the darkest days of their mourning, and hopes others find similar solace after their own personal tragedies.

“It’s remembering all the things that God did in our family and all the things that carried us through,” she said. "It almost sounds like a paradox to say, but we’ve learned more about God’s love through our loss.”

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