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Faith sustains grief-stricken family

They are focusing on forgiveness after Christmas Eve car accident

After losing three members of their family in a tragic Christmas Eve accident, Gary Ceran and his two remaining children are doing as well as can be expected, said the family's bishop Lyle Nielsen.

Hand in hand Gary Ceran walks with his son Caleb and Daughter Clarissa as the caskets are pulled from the hearses at Valley View Cemetary in West Valley during Funeral Services for Cheryl Lynne Smith Ceran, Ian James Ceran, and Julianna Janae Ceran December 30, 2006 Photo by Scott G. Winterton / Deseret Morning News.
Hand in hand Gary Ceran walks with his son Caleb and Daughter Clarissa as the caskets are pulled from the hearses at Valley View Cemetary in West Valley during Funeral Services for Cheryl Lynne Smith Ceran, Ian James Ceran, and Julianna Janae Ceran December 30, 2006 Photo by Scott G. Winterton / Deseret Morning News. Photo: Dnews

"The family is strong," said Bishop Nielsen. "They are relying on their faith and their testimony of the Atonement and on being able to see each other again. They are a good example to all of us of how to apply the principles of the gospel in our own lives."

Cheryl Lynne Smith Ceran, 47; Ian James Ceran, 15, and Julianna Janae Ceran, 7, — all of the Cedar Hills 12th Ward, Cedar Hills Utah Stake — were killed in the early morning hours of Dec. 24 when an alleged drunken driver of a pickup truck ran a red light and slammed into the Cerans' car.

Brother Ceran, 45, and two children Caleb Ceran, 12, and Clarissa Ceran, 19, were injured. The driver of the other car, Carlos Rodolfo Prieto, 24, now faces multiple felony charges, including three counts of automobile homicide.

"They are moving on and forgiving the individual," said Bishop Nielsen, explaining that on numerous occasions Brother Ceran has requested others pray for his family and the man who caused the accident.

The family is focusing on the underlying principles of the gospel and on forgiveness, he added. "Their faith has been the thing that has given them strength to do that and the courage and the knowledge to know that we are all brothers and sisters and we all have agency. Sometimes we misuse that, but that is what the Atonement is all about."

Bishop Nielsen said the family's strength, faith, and mercy have directed others to "reflect upon their own lives and wonder if they could have equal faith." Over the years, the Ceran family has been reduced from 11 to three: previously, five of the Cerans' nine children died from cancer or premature birth.

President Thomas S. Monson of the first Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who spoke at the Funeral Services for Cheryl Lynne Smith Ceran, Ian James Ceran, and Julianna Janae Ceran exits the building after. December 30, 2006 Photo by Scott G. Winterton / Deseret Morning News.
President Thomas S. Monson of the first Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who spoke at the Funeral Services for Cheryl Lynne Smith Ceran, Ian James Ceran, and Julianna Janae Ceran exits the building after. December 30, 2006 Photo by Scott G. Winterton / Deseret Morning News. Photo: Dnews

The Ceran family was headed home about 2:30 a.m. Dec. 24 after doing some late-night shopping and attending a cast party for the Hale Centre Theatre production of "A Christmas Carol," in which some family members had roles. Brother Ceran performed the role of Bob Cratchit in the production.

The Charles Dickens classic is loved by President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, who spoke at the funeral Dec. 30. Borrowing from one of the story's characters, Tiny Tim, President Monson said, "May God bless us, every one."

President Monson read a letter to Brother Ceran from the First Presidency, reminding the father and his remaining two children that death is an essential step in the journey to exaltation. He also told everyone that the time for tears had passed and that Saturday was a day to smile and learn from the Cerans as they "look to God and live."

During the funeral, Caleb Ceran bore his testimony of the gospel.

"I'm so grateful that I'll get to see my family again," he said. "They are so happy now."

Clarissa echoed her brother's remarks. "I do know that families can be together forever," she said. "I'm so, so confident that they're happy."

Brother Ceran said he was humbled to see the huge level of support for his family. He also spoke of dealing with all his loss, saying that in death love helps people cope with grief.

"I did not lose a partner," he said. "I lost half of me."

Ceran Family: Gary, Cheryl, Clarissa (turned 19 today), Ian 15, Caleb 12, Julianna 7
Family Photo
Ceran Family: Gary, Cheryl, Clarissa (turned 19 today), Ian 15, Caleb 12, Julianna 7 Family Photo Photo: Family Photo

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