Faith sustains Crawford relatives as they cope with crash

  • A family photo shows the Crawfords -- from left, Christian, Kevin, Kirsten, Anita and Hailee.

    A family photo shows the Crawfords -- from left, Christian, Kevin, Kirsten, Anita and Hailee. Courtesy of Erika Schmidt

Updated 2/20/2017 5:59 AM

In the face of the tragedy that took the lives of their daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, Erwin and Ursel Schmidt say they are relying on their strong faith to sustain them.

On Sunday morning, nearly three days after the car crash in Des Plaines that killed 52-year-old Kevin Crawford, 50-year-old Anita Crawford and 20-year-old Kirsten, the Schmidts sat in a pew in the church they have called home for about 50 years, St. John Lutheran Church in Mount Prospect.


Faith for them has meant not only worship, but service.

Erwin helps take care of the church property by cutting the grass.

Ursel has been involved in the altar guild, which is responsible for preparing the chancel and its furnishings for worship. She also bakes cookies for the church.

Even as she girded herself for Monday's visitation at Friedrichs Funeral Home and Tuesday's funeral at St. John, she still prepared treats for Sunday's coffee break fellowship.

But she clearly struggled with her emotions as she sat with her husband in a pew in the middle of church at 1100 Linneman Road.

As songs were sung and prayers recited, she periodically gave vent to tears.

Prior to the service, fellow worshippers approached the couple, offering words of condolence.

And after the service, Ursel and Pastor Jeff Gavin embraced.

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The church has been there for crucial family milestones for the Schmidts. Their daughter was married there, and the three grandchildren were baptized there. too.

And now funeral services for the three members of the Crawford family will be held there.

Following Sunday's service, the two talked about how the surviving children, Hailee, 15, and Christian, 10, are dealing with the loss.

"Hailee, I think she is keeping most of it inside because on the outside she looks pretty calm," Erwin said.

As for Christian, "the little one" as his grandfather calls him, "If you keep him occupied, then he's OK. But when he's by himself, he cries all the time."

Ursel said she and his aunt took Christian to Tae Kwon Do on Friday.

"That's really important," she said. "He was giving us directions how to get there. The people over there took good care of him, and he had a good time."


She said one of the soccer coaches came over as well, "And (Christian) was a little boy again."

But there remain reminders of lost parents.

"We always pat him on the head," Ursel said. "He's got pretty hair, and we always pat him on the head. He said that reminds me so much of what my mom always did.

"I just told him that when he is reminded of them by something, by a pat on the head or anything, it should make him happy, because his mom and dad and sister are watching down on him and they're happy he's happy."

During Sunday's service, Gavin offered prayers of sympathy for the Crawford family.

"Amidst our sorrow, we can still receive assurance that by your grace, through their faith in you as their own savior, their souls are now with you in Heaven," the pastor said.

Following the service, Gavin acknowledged that preparing the words for Tuesday have been difficult.

He said he hopes to deliver a message that will help deal with the question of "Why?"

He emphasized that, although church members have made themselves available to the family, the need for ongoing ministry will continue, expressing special concern for the children.

"Children are resilient," he said, "but this is a lifetime loss for them.

"You always remember. It can be a picture seen or a bit of music heard. Any sort of thing that you encounter will bring those memories just flooding back.

"It's the youngest children that we're most concerned about. They will obviously suffer the most. But we're here to minister and we're here to bring to them the comfort and the presence and the word of their Lord, who is the only source of comfort and relief and peace."

They are words of reassurance for the Schmidts.

"They say faith is everything." Ursel said. "That's all we've got."

"Young people, they don't look for God when they're younger," Erwin added. "When they get older, then they realize more that you need somebody to turn to."

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