His Grace Is Sufficient

“My mind was telling me that there is no possible way for any of this to even happen.”

His Grace Is Sufficient

Jack: We were a military (Marine Corps) family that ended up in Omaha and remained after I retired. On August 7, 2019, Kristy and the children were on their way to the doctor’s office for back-to-school physicals. They were stopped at a red light and were rear-ended by a dump truck without breaking or slowing down; the driver was distracted by his phone. Stephen died on impact. After speaking with the first officer to respond to the scene, he said that he had a calm conversation with Abby. Abby was sitting in the seat directly behind the passenger seat and was pinned between the seats. The officer asked her if she was hurt, and she said no, he asked her if she could get herself out, and she said no because she was stuck. The officer reassured her and said they would get her out. Once they cut her free, the officer said her face turned white, and she lost consciousness. Abby was life-flighted to the hospital where she immediately went into emergency surgery and subsequently died from her injuries. Abby was 16, just a month away from 17 and Stephen was 10, four months away from turning 11.

I remember getting the phone call at work. I was told to get to the hospital as quickly and as safely as possible because my wife had been in a bad accident and was unresponsive. Upon arrival at the hospital, I was briefed by the on-duty Chaplain. He told me that Kristy was unresponsive and that he did not know any other details. When I asked about my children, he responded, “she had passengers?”, and I said, “yes, four”. He described a Jane Doe that was in emergency surgery and asked me if she could be Abby. I said yes. He was able to provide some information that, in my mind, sounded reassuring and promising. In my mind, Abby was going to be fine. I then began searching the patient rooms in the emergency room looking for the boys and found Hunter (12). Other than some minor scrapes, multiple bruises on his face, and a fractured orbital socket he was fine. Hunter was the only one that remained conscious throughout the accident. As I was talking to him, the nurse in the room got my attention and asked if I was the father. I told her yes. She suggested that I go into the next room.

That is where Levi (14) was. Levi was in and out of consciousness. I was able to get him to wake up and began asking him if he was hurt. As I began to triage his injuries starting at his head, he winced in pain when I got to his abdomen. The nurse quickly got the doctor and someone to do an ultrasound. They began identifying potential internal bleeding, lacerated liver, ruptured spleen, etc. and quickly rushed him out for a CT scan, X-rays, MRI, and more deliberate evaluations. Within minutes of Levi being taken away, the chaplain and the doctor that was operating on Abby requested that I visit with them in a private room, where they informed me that Abby’s internal injuries were too severe and that they were unable to save her. This is also when the chaplain shared with me that Stephen died at the scene.

So, to recap what I know at this point. Kristy remains unresponsive, I just found out that Abby did not make it through surgery, Stephen died at the scene, Levi was just rushed away for a more deliberate evaluation with potential life-threatening internal injuries, and Hunter is pretty banged up. I remember standing in one of the small hallways near the emergency room in complete disbelief. My mind was having a difficult time processing the fact that I just lost two of my precious children and the possibility of losing Kristy and Levi was very real. My mind was telling me that there is no possible way for any of this to even happen. We still had things to do as a family. More memories to make. All the prayers we prayed with our children about their future – school, career choices, future spouses, the list goes on. It was impossible for any of this to make sense. I began praying for God to work a miracle in what remained. I prayed for Levi to not have any internal injuries, for Kristy to be okay, and for God to preserve and restore them. I was also overwhelmed with the reality that Abby and Stephen were literally experiencing life as God intended at creation. I was so thankful knowing, without question, that they were literally in the presence of Jesus. This brought unspeakable comfort and my prayer turned to praise knowing this. As I was trying to wrap my head around what was happening; knowing that my world would never be the same, questions began to come. As I was contemplating these questions, I felt an overwhelming presence of God saying, “My grace is sufficient”. Over and over “My grace is sufficient”, “My grace is sufficient”…. I felt that I had such a strong connection to heaven – to God. A real and personal experience that brought such peace. I felt God say “You are not alone. What you are going through will be hard, extremely hard. I have been there, I know. But I will get you through this valley. Trust me, I’ve got you.” I know that God’s ways are higher than mine. I felt it then, and I believe it still, that, in some way, ways that may never make sense this side of heaven, God showed incredible grace and mercy that day.

Kristy’s first memory after stopping at the red light was waking up in the hospital. She said that when she opened her eyes, she realized that she had been crying out for the children, “where are my babies, where are my babies, where are my babies?!” Soon after Kristy gained consciousness, I was able to visit with her. I remember Kristy being incredibly bruised, wearing a neck brace and leg splints, and still with open wounds on her face and arms. She immediately began asking about the children. I told her that Levi and Hunter will be fine. She asked, “what about Abby and Stephen?” I told her that “Abby and Stephen are now walking the streets of gold.” We wept uncontrollably and prayed. Again, at that moment we felt so clearly God reassuring us that His grace has always been, and always will be sufficient.

Somehow, by the grace of God, we have never felt anger toward the driver of the dump truck. We knew that he did not wake up that morning intending to hurt anyone. It was a horrible accident with horrible consequences. We were angry, not with the driver, but with the consequences and realities of a fallen world. For Abby and Stephen’s funeral, we chose the song, “Yes I Will” from Vertical Worship as a declaration to everyone
present that our family was still trusting God and we were making a deliberate choice to praise Him, even in our lowest valley. God gave us Hebrews 10:23 to cling to, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”

Grief is strange, it never goes away; the pain is real, and often overwhelming. It was important that we forgive the driver. Not just between us and God but to him directly. Included below is the letter we sent the driver on his release from prison just last month. We provide this, not to be self-promoting, but to say that forgiveness has been instrumental in our grief journey and healing. This journal entry from Kristy in November 2019 is a glimpse of how raw grief can be, even with an eternal outlook:

Journal Entry November 2019
“WHY?! Why was I stopped at the light at 9:47 am? Why did God allow Abby and Stephen to die and us to survive? Why were our prayers for our children to live a long and healthy life not given? I KNOW God is faithful. I KNOW my circumstances do not change who God is. I KNOW God’s grace will be sufficient. I KNOW God is love. I KNOW God knows the number of our days before we were created. I KNOW that my heart hurts. This all still feels so unreal. I am angry that no matter what, no matter how hard I cry or how much I miss them, it changes nothing. This void is for the rest of my life and that feels like a very long time right now. Everything feels so meaningless lately. I thank God for Hunter and Levi’s survival. They, along with Jack, give my life meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. Our family feels broken. We are trying to endure, press on and continue living, but we are all very broken people. What we had was so extremely special. Abby and Stephen brought our family so much joy. The loss is too much to bear. It is only through God’s strength that we will endure. So much has changed since Aug 7, 2019. So much has changed.”

With incredible support from friends, family, and our community we started the Abby and Stephen Young Memorial Foundation. This is not a plug or promotion for the foundation. We want to mention it because it is one of the “beauty from ashes” stories that we have experienced. Currently, we provide financial assistance to those that are experiencing child loss. The assistance can be for funeral expenses, bills, groceries, etc. We have a goal of also creating a respite place for grieving families. A peaceful cabin in the country where families can grieve without distractions. We want it to be a sanctuary for the grieving; a place where we can love on them in Jesus’ name.

We are coming up on four years in less than two weeks. It’s hard to summarize ALL that God has done. Our love for Abby, Stephen, and a miscarried baby that we have never met will continue. On this side of heaven, there will never come a day that our hearts don’t miss Abby and Stephen, but there is strength in knowing that one
day we will be reunited. It’s only a matter of time – in God’s time. Until then, the waves of grief will roll in and roll out. When they roll in, we turn to our Heavenly Father. When things are good, we turn to our Heavenly Father. Either way, we turn to Him. Each time, He gently reminds us of His promises, strengthens our hearts, and gives us the ability to endure and grieve in a way that is both healthy and God-honoring. We desire to be a light in this dark world through the power of the Holy Spirit, to endure for an eternal purpose. We have learned that we can rely on God in the face of ANYTHING! Jeremiah 29:13- If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me.

There is so much more we could share, if you have any questions or need anything clarified please let us know. Finally, here are the closing paragraphs of the letter that we provided the judge during the driver’s sentencing after being found guilty of two counts of felony vehicular homicide and reckless driving and the letter to the driver upon his release from prison.

“It is important for us to say that our hope is eternal and not limited to what we can see or not see – what we can touch or not touch. We try to live with an eternal mindset, knowing that this life on earth is temporary. We believe with everything in us, that Abby and Stephen are more alive now than they ever were when they were with us. Knowing this gives us hope but does not take away the deep loss that we feel every single day. Make no mistake, we grieve deeply, but we grieve with hope. Finally, it is our prayer that, in everything, God gets the glory, otherwise, Abby and Stephen’s deaths would be in vain. Ultimately, we desire for this event to lead many to eternity with Christ, including the driver. In fact, we pray for him often and would be excited to see him be used as an instrument to lead generations of souls to the Kingdom – this would bring purpose to Abby and Stephen’s deaths.”

Letter to the driver at his release from prison around February 1, 2023:

“We forgive you. I (we) forgave you on Aug 7, 2019, when I woke up in the hospital and found out what happened. I do not harbor hate towards you. I do not believe that you woke up that morning intending to hurt anyone. It probably doesn’t need to be said, but I think it is important for you to know that we continue to struggle
with unspeakable grief. Grief is strange though; the same picture or memory that brings a smile one minute will bring waves of uncontrollable tears and grief the next. But, part of the healing process is forgiveness, and we need you to know that we forgive you.

I hope this horrible chapter in our lives helps you to strive to be the best husband and father that you can be. I know it has helped us to live more deliberately. I believe, somehow, God will make beauty from ashes in all of this, even if we may not get to see it this side of heaven, where I hope to meet you as a brother in Christ. I pray that you can move forward and live the best life that you can for God’s glory and please remember Abby and Stephen often. One of the ways that we are remembering Abby and Stephen is with the Abby and Stephen Young Memorial Foundation; doing this helps us to keep their names alive. We will continue to pray for you and your family; please pray for our family also.

Peace and Blessings,
Kristy (and Jack) Young

“When [grief rolls] in, we turn to our Heavenly Father. When things are good, we turn to our Heavenly Father. Either way, we turn to Him.”

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