The Van Ryn and Cerak families came together on the Today show Tuesday

By Tara Fowler
Updated September 15, 2015 08:00 AM
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Susie Van Ryn has nothing but love for Whitney Cerak nearly a decade after a devastating case of mistaken identity.

“What a joy to see Whitney and Matt with their three kids,” Susie told the Today show’s Matt Lauer on Tuesday. “It’s wonderful.”

In 2006, Susie and her family spent more than a month by Whitney’s side while she was recovering from a deadly car accident, believing that she was in fact their daughter Laura. Whitney’s parents, Newell and Colleen, were told their daughter had died.

But as the swelling on Whitney’s face went down and she slowly healed from her injuries, the Van Ryns realized a terrible truth: The woman in the hospital bed was not their baby girl. As it turned out, officials had confused the two young women, both blonde, in the chaos of the accident. It was Whitney who had survived and Laura who was dead.

“I said, ‘Can you tell me your name?’ And she said Whitney,” Susie recalled.

Ten years later, there are no hard feelings between the families. Whitney, who married in 2010 at the same church where her funeral was once held, is now a mom to three beautiful kids. And while Susie admits that it’s bittersweet to see Whitney with her children, knowing that her daughter Laura will never experience that, she’s happy for the young mom.

“It’s nothing but joy for them,” she said.

Susie went on to credit her faith with helping her get through the loss of her daughter. “We certainly want others to know that there is a heavenly father that loves and cares about each one of us and to trust him and to know that he’s hanging on to you.”

Added Whitney’s dad, Newell: “Some things can’t be explained, but the faith that we have in Christ, the faith that we have in God that’s given us the strength to get through all of it.”