The best way to tell a story is from personal experience and from your heart. With that said, this is not my story, but of late, it is my heart.
On Sunday, March 31st I was woke up by a phone call at 11:08 PM. It was my daughter Rebekah. Her exact words were, “Mom, something terrible has happened to Celestial Lambert; Something so awful.”
These words will make any mother sit straight up in bed from a deep sleep.
She tried to tell me, between sobs of disbelief, news which was so heavy, so harrowing that I stood up, because it wasn’t the kind of thing you could take sitting down.
Celestial Lambert is 19, a classmate, fellow choir and church member and life-time friend of my children. I’ve known her family a long time. I remember her parent’s engagement, Celestial’s birth, and her baptism. Our lives and families have been interwoven for the better part of twenty years.
I want to give a brief back-story starting just the day before the 11 PM phone call.
On Saturday morning I met Rebekah at a local antique store and as we walked their garden my daughter mentioned that she was uncomfortable about a man who had been attending her church. I remembered her telling me about him on more than one occasion. She said, “Well, he’s nice and hasn’t done anything necessarily bad , but it’s odd how he keeps showing up in strange places that he’s not really invited to- especially if Celestial is there. It’s almost like….and I hate to say it, but it’s almost like he’s obsessed or stalking her.” According to Rebekah, the man had not missed a single church service, prayer meeting, Men’s breakfast or Outreach ministry service at Nursing homes.
She told me that the family doesn’t want to offend him, but that they had been very aware of his unwelcomed attention toward Celestial. After he attempted to give Celestial gifts she wrote him a letter with the help of her parents telling him that he needs to put his interest elsewhere. She was a young girl still living at home- he was over 40, divorced and even had a child. “I’m just worried,” Rebekah said as we walked, “They’ve been firm, but nice. Hopefully he’ll get the picture and just leave!”
As I left my daughter that morning I thought about the Lamberts and how they were the first to befriend anyone they came in contact with. I wondered how they were going to handle such a predicament as being welcoming to a new church attendee and at the same time ward off this stranger’s attention toward their daughter.
On Sunday night my daughter came and picked up my son to go sing and play music at a local nursing home. The Lambert Family was scheduled to be there too. Like I said, our families have been interwoven for decades. When my son was dropped off later that night, I asked how it went, he mentioned that the Lamberts were there and so was the new man from church.
Just two hours later I received the 11 PM phone call. I tried to process the details as Rebekah told them to me. To the best of my ability I will tell you the events as they were shared - with the hope that you will come to respect this family with the same admiration as I do, and if I tell this properly, you too will want to be a part of the recovery and rehabilitation of this amazing young lady.
The Lamberts left a local restaurant at around 10PM on Sunday night. As they were walking across the parking lot a car sped toward them with the intention of hitting them. The family scattered as the car ran over Celestial. The driver of the vehicle crashed into a light pole then jumped from the car and began to attack Celestial with a knife.
The person stabbing Celestial was the man from church. He had just listened to Celestial’s dad preach at the nursing home and had even shook his hand as they left. Now, he was screaming at her as he stabbed her in the back, the neck, the shoulder. At some point the knife punctured a lung and damaged the top of her spinal column.
I sat back down on the edge of my bed; my heart couldn’t bear this weight. Celestial was on a life-flight to Baptist hospital. The young girl with a compliment for everyone, a song for every situation, a smile for every stranger- she was being transported to our area’s trauma center.
I cried silently listening to the horrid details of her mother having to pull the knife out of her back, and begging her to fight to live. Celestial told her parents how much she loved them and that she was okay to leave and meet the Lord.
My heart sobbed without making a sound.
Rebekah told me the police were saying that Celestial’s dad was the reason they had the man in custody. He tackled the man and held him down until help came. Her mother had wounds trying to keep her daughter out of his reach. The younger siblings watched as this entire hellish scene played out before them.
It’s been a week since the attack on Celestial. Within the last week she has had one surgery to drain the blood from her punctured wound. In spite of being ran over and brutally attacked by a man, there were no broken bones. She has a fracture in one of her vertebrae and damage to her spinal column.
The prognosis has changed dramatically and miraculously from one day to the next. Last Tuesday (one week ago) she wasn’t able to feel anything in her leg or move her toes. She had no use of one arm with Physical therapists predicting it would take a year to learn to write or walk again. Today, Tuesday, April 9, 2019- she walked over 20 feet! True to her character she has only thanked God for her safety, protection and has seen the silver lining in every circumstance, prognosis and tackled every challenge with a smile. This is the Celestial that everyone knows and loves. This is the reason I share her story.
As is expected, the medical bills are astronomical. The life-flight alone is staggering. The extended care rehabilitation center is going to be unknown thousands. The parents have been by their daughter’s side from the first moments. The missed work hours and paychecks will begin to have predictable consequences.
The family is seeking legal counsel on pursuing the attacker. The man is in jail with a secured $500,000 bond. The investigation is on-going. The family needs financial assistance in not just getting Celestial well and rehabilitated but making sure this man is prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
*Update- As of 4/12/19 The attacker has been indicted by the Randolph County Grand Jury on one count of Attempted murder, one count of Assault with a Deadly Weapon with Intent to Kill Inflicting Serious Injury, and six counts of Assault with a Deadly Weapon with Intent to Kill.