Their faith tested, their hearts still grieving, members of a devout North Kamloops church gather Thursday for a mournful task — a funeral for one of their own.
The 120 members of the Catholic Women's League of Our Lady of Perpetual Help hold the first of two services this week as they say goodbye to Mariette Brenholen and Ruth Galics.
Both were killed on Friday when the van they were passengers in crashed east of Chase.
Parishioners from Catholic churches all over the diocese pay their last respects to Brenholen at 10 a.m., before preparing for Galic's funeral Saturday at 11 a.m.
"They were the backbone of our group and our parish," said friend and women's league member Marlene Campbell.
"Their obituaries didn't do them justice . . . . They did everything . . . . These are women that are irreplaceable."
Their untimely death has shaken the close-knit community, said Campbell.
Brenholen, 73, and Galics, 82, were on their way to a regional convention in Salmon Arm with fellow OLPH league executives Mirella Wessel and Josie van Elslander when the accident happened.
Wessel and driver van Elslander survived the crash and are in Royal Inland Hospital recovering from various broken bones — with emotional scars that will take much longer to heal.
"It was a great shock," said Campbell of the accident.
"It was half our executive. We lost half our executive — two permanently and two facing long, long recoveries.
Brenholen and Galics were the best of friends and longtime members of the Catholic Women's League.
Brenholen was the group's president. She was an active community volunteer, who helped serve meals for St. Vincent de Paul Society and drove patients to out-of-town cancer treatments.
Galics, too, was busy in the church community. For years, she co-ordinated all the lunches for grieving families at funerals. She was also active in many other areas of the church and was the loving matriarch of a large family.
Not only were Galics and Brenholen best friends, they shared a lot in common, particularly a fondness for the league's annual conventions. Last week, they were looking forward to sharing an update about their group's charitable activities, including the financial support of New Life Mission's dental clinic.
"They went to all these conventions together, all the time," said Campbell.
"It's so poetic that they died together because they were very, very good friends forever."
For a community strong in its devotion to God, an accident like this comes as a tough blow. Was it fate that determined who would live and who would die that day? Was it simply a matter of chance, luck of the draw? The questions are many.
For Campbell, who spent much of Wednesday co-ordinating the post-funeral lunch for Brenholen's service — a job Galics would have done — there are no answers, just an overwhelming sense of sorrow and a belief that, for whatever reason, God had a plan.
"We all know they've gone to a better place," she said. "I mean we're missing them, especially their families, but we know they've gone to a better place. It was time God called them home."