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Mormon young man faces loss of three family members with faith (+video)

Published: Sunday, July 5 2015 1:57 a.m. MDT

Gary, Caleb and Clarissa Ceran receiving comfort from President Thomas S. Monson on the day of Cheryl, Ian and Julianna Ceran's funeral. (Neil Whitaker) Gary, Caleb and Clarissa Ceran receiving comfort from President Thomas S. Monson on the day of Cheryl, Ian and Julianna Ceran's funeral. (Neil Whitaker)

In a recent video filmed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 19-year-old Caleb Ceran shares his testimony of the 2013 youth theme, “Stand Ye in Holy Places.”

Ceran’s life changed drastically when his mother, brother and sister were killed in a car accident on Christmas Eve in 2006, while the family was driving home from a cast party for Hale Center Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol.”

Ceran recalls certain events just before the accident that he later recognized as blessings.

“It was really interesting because my older brother, who passed away in the accident, was able to go and see some of his very best friends just before he died,” Ceran said. “He saw one of his best friends in a store, and he got to talk to him, and then he saw one of his other best friends in a ballet performance.”

The Cerans together at Christmas 2012. Back row, left to right: Gary Ceran, Corrine Ceran, Michael Peterson, Eric Armstrong holding Isabelle Armstrong, Clarissa Ceran Armstrong holding London Armstrong, Caleb Ceran. Middle row: Jonny Peterson, Sarah Peterson, Becka Peterson, Christina Ceran. Front row: Jake Ceran, Alex Ceran. (Gary Ceran) The Cerans together at Christmas 2012. Back row, left to right: Gary Ceran, Corrine Ceran, Michael Peterson, Eric Armstrong holding Isabelle Armstrong, Clarissa Ceran Armstrong holding London Armstrong, Caleb Ceran. Middle row: Jonny Peterson, Sarah Peterson, Becka Peterson, Christina Ceran. Front row: Jake Ceran, Alex Ceran. (Gary Ceran)

Ceran also remembers how he was able to spend time with his 7-year-old sister Julianna shortly before she was killed.

“Before the accident, it seemed like everybody was kind of coming together, like people were able to say goodbye without even knowing it,” Ceran said.

Ceran doesn’t remember much from the accident, but he clearly remembers when his father came to tell him about the passing of his family members.

“My dad told me we’d been in a really bad accident, and instantly my thoughts turned to my mom, Ian and Julianna,” Ceran said.

Even before Ceran asked if everyone was OK, he knew the answer. The moment Gary Ceran told his son three members of their family had died, Ceran felt what he describes as an “overwhelming peace.”

The Cerans were sealed to their three new siblings adopted from Ukraine on Nov. 4, 2011, in the Salt Lake LDS Temple. From left to right: Gary Ceran, Sarah Peterson, Caleb Ceran, Michael Peterson, Jonny Peterson, Alex Ceran, Christina Ceran, Becka Peterson, Jake Ceran and Corrine Ceran. (Wes Farnsworth) The Cerans were sealed to their three new siblings adopted from Ukraine on Nov. 4, 2011, in the Salt Lake LDS Temple. From left to right: Gary Ceran, Sarah Peterson, Caleb Ceran, Michael Peterson, Jonny Peterson, Alex Ceran, Christina Ceran, Becka Peterson, Jake Ceran and Corrine Ceran. (Wes Farnsworth)

With a single tear running down his cheek, he turned to his father and said, “It’s OK, Dad, we’re still a family.”

Because of his LDS background, Ceran grew up believing families could be together forever, especially after the loss of five of his other siblings: three all under the age of 2 from a malignant brain tumor and twins who died at birth.

The moment he heard he’d lost two more of his siblings as well as his mom, Ceran's testimony of forever families was confirmed with an overwhelming peace that has never left him.

Instead of feeling anger, Ceran felt grateful for a merciful Father in Heaven who would reunite his mother with her five children who had passed away years earlier.

“I knew at that moment that God loved every one of us,” Ceran said. “There is no way my mom could have handled losing two more of her children. I can’t think of a better Christmas present for her than to see her children again.”

Gary Ceran married Corrine Peterson on March 21, 2008, in the Bountiful Temple. (Gary Ceran) Gary Ceran married Corrine Peterson on March 21, 2008, in the Bountiful Temple. (Gary Ceran)

Ceran looks to his father as an example when it comes to being grateful rather than questioning God. Instead of asking, "Why are you doing this to me?" or "Why are you not blessing me when I’m doing what’s right?", Gary Ceran asks this question: "Why are you trying to make me more like you?" It is this perspective that has helped the Cerans understand why they go through the trials they do.

Forgiving the drunk driver who hit the car has also been a blessing in Ceran’s life that has helped him move forward.

“I’ve never even thought to be angry at him, which sometimes makes me feel like I’m not a normal person,” Ceran said. “I hope that one day he’ll be able to find that hope and joy and find forgiveness through the Savior, so he can live a meaningful life.”

Ceran strives to stay close to his mom, Ian and Julianna by trying to follow Jesus Christ and live his teachings. He often thinks about what his mom would think of his life or if she’d be proud of him.

“I feel like those people beyond the veil are guiding me,” Ceran said.

Ceran also cherishes the relationship he maintains with his 25-year-old sister, Clarissa, and his dad (the two other survivors of the accident), as well as new family members.

In March of 2008, Gary Ceran remarried Corrine Peterson, and a stepmother and four stepsiblings joined the Ceran family.

“I can’t even express how blessed I am that I have two amazing moms,” Ceran said.

Amidst the ups and downs of blending a family, the Cerans continued to grow. In October of 2010, the family hosted four orphans from Ukraine for two weeks.

After spending days attempting to communicate using a few words from each of the two tongues, the Ceran’s decided they wanted to adopt three of the children who were siblings.

It wasn’t an easy process, but the Ceran’s saw miracles along the way. They were able to raise the $51,000 they needed by having garage sales and selling items door-to-door in different neighborhoods. Caleb was even able to sell the portrait he drew of President Thomas S. Monson for just more than $2,000.

During the adoption process, changes in Ukrainian laws attempted to ban Americans from adopting in that country, but after two trips to Ukraine, the Cerans returned with their three newest children: 14-year-old Christina, 11-year-old Alex and 9-year-old Jacob.

“They are honestly some of my best friends,” Ceran said, speaking of his three new siblings. “I feel like I’m in a movie or something. It’s just too good to be true that we have them.”

During his senior year of high school, Ceran began to struggle with resurfacing emotions of loss and to feel pain he’d never experienced before. Although he felt like a truly happy person, he realized he hadn’t completely been able to heal from his loss.

“Those pains and sufferings that I felt really helped me feel close to the Savior, and now I have so much more compassion for others,” Ceran said. “One of the greatest blessings of my trials has been to speak with other people who have dealt with trials.”

Through his times of trouble, Ceran relied on prayer, scripture study and playing the piano to bring him peace.

Recently, Ceran recorded a CD, which he’ll release in the coming weeks. He is selling it to raise money for his LDS mission.

One of the songs from the CD, titled “Part of Me,” has been released on YouTube.

Ceran dedicated this song to two people in his life: his mom and his best friend who moved to Germany after high school graduation.

His song features lyrics such as "Though you’re leaving now/though we’ll be far apart/I’m keeping you here close inside my heart/Though my eyes will not see you/I will still feel you near/your faith your strength and love will be forever part of me."

“I wanted to write that song because both my friend and my mom are part of me, and I just have kind of had that feeling where I know part of me is missing, but I know that it will come back,” Ceran said. “The song is to kind of say thank you for the way they’ve touched my life and inspired me. It’s a song to let them know I’ll never forget them.”

Megan Marsden is an intern with Deseret Digital Media. She writes for the Faith & Family section and is currently a junior at BYU-Idaho studying communication.

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