Deadly Tragedy Spurs Janet Willis To Write Book On Heaven

CHICAGO (CBS) — Six of her children were killed in fiery highway crash; a crash that led to a huge political corruption scandal and, ultimately, the conviction of former Gov. George Ryan.

Now, Janet Willis is sharing some of her most personal thoughts.

She has written a new book titled “What on Earth is Heaven Like?” and she said she hopes it helps other people who are also suffering.

Speaking out for the first time since Ryan asked to be set free from prison to be with his dying wife, Lura Lynn Ryan, Willis expressed sympathy for the former governor, but said she believes he should stay behind bars.

“Our justice system did the right thing and the law already has made decisions about those kinds of things,” Willis said. “There’s many prisoners that have that separation. In my heart, sure, I feel for him. I feel for his wife. I wish it wouldn’t have to be this way.”

Ryan was convicted of multiple corruption charges in 2006, after federal agents investigated a licenses for bribes scandal at the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, which Ryan ran before he went to prison.

Although Ryan was never charged with anything in direct connection to the crash that killed the Willis children, the truck driver who caused the fiery crash had gotten his license through a bribe to a worker at Ryan’s department.

George Ryan has served a little more than three years of a 6 ½-year sentence and has made multiple attempts to get out of prison while he appeals his case, in order to see his dying wife.

So far, prison officials have allowed him a short furlough to see his wife earlier this year, but his efforts at early release have failed.

“We have no animosity towards Mr. or Mrs. Ryan and we do pray for them,” Willis said. “I don’t know them and I don’t know their needs, but I do pray for them and there’s no bitterness there.”

Willis said it’s one thing to forgive Ryan for his crimes, but it’s another to see that he faces the proper punishment for them.

“Forgiveness … there’s a difference between legally forgiving somebody and harboring bitterness in your heart against somebody,” Willis said. “

She said her faith was shaken just briefly as six of her children burned and died in a highway crash linked to corruption in Ryan’s office. She and her husband, Rev. Scott Willis, were burned in the crash.

“In the actual trauma of the accident, it was really split seconds, and my husband called out to me Psalm 34, which is a verse that we had already memorized,” Willis said.

“I remember the flash through my mind, ‘Not a bible verse, not now,’ and immediately I realized, ‘Of course, a Bible verse,’” she added. “In the ambulance, I actually said ‘God, there’s no way I can handle this, I give it all to you and, just help me.’ And he did.”

Willis also said that in the first year or two after her children died the crash, “thinking of them growing up without me was just really agonizing. I don’t know if they’ll be the same age when I see them in heaven. That’s the way I picture them.”

Although the Willis’s three other children — who were not in the van the day of the crash — have blessed them with more than 20 grandchildren, Janet Willis said there will always be something missing in their lives because of the six children they lost.

“The grandchildren aren’t a replacement … but they’re a huge blessing,” she said. “No one will ever take the place of the six that we lost, but I know that I’m going to see them again someday. And when I see them, there’s not going to be anymore goodbyes. So, in that sense, there’s a hole, there’s a gap that’s going to be unfulfilled the rest of my life here on Earth.”

CBS 2 Producer Ed Marshall contributed to this report.

  • Ed Hammer,author of One Hundred Percent Guilty

    Janet’s book signing , tomorrow 9- 11:00 am @ the Overflow Coffee Bar 1550 S. State., Chicago, Il.

  • Ed Hammer,author of One Hundred Percent Guilty

    Janet’s book signing , tomorrow 9- 11:00 am @ the Overflow Coffee Bar 1550 S. State., Chicago, Il.

  • Marge Stacy

    I so, wish that I could be there at this book signing! Scott and Janet Willis are the best example of a true Christian that I have ever known! I have known them since the 70″s, at Bapist Bible College., very sweet Christians! God decided to put them through the same test that he put on Job. And when he did, they shined like gold! They are the sincerest,,t most dedicated christians that I have ever known!! Even though I haven”t seen them in years, I have followd their tragedy and carried their burden. I will someday share their sweet fellowship in heaven.

  • annie

    God bless this couple who went through hell and are back now.
    We are sure the book will be an inspiration to all those who lost a loved ones and those who harbor bitterness in their hearts.
    God is a God of all confort. And we all are sure that the Lord is consoling their hearts every single day.
    To loose all her children in a fiery crash must be devastating.
    We are praying for this couple every single day.

  • Ann

    There were seventeen indictments against Ryan, not all relating to the Willis accident. Ryan is being punished for the crimes he committed against hundreds of people in IL and for setting a precedence of criminal activity. The Willis family lost six children, something that is NOT replaceable. The piece that CBS 2 wrote and reported is about a woman who has faithfully lived her life for Jesus Christ in the face of the an unthinkable tragedy. His wife is ill and that is sad. However, it is not the Willis family who is punishing Ryan, it is the judicial system for ALL the crimes that he committed. Mrs. Willis wrote a book about heaven because she said her children live there now. I think people should read it. We all need to know about heaven. And for heavens sake, leave this family alone. They certainly grieve every day the loss of their six children. And all the other families that have been affected by the crimes that Ryan involved himself in are suffering, too. We need to pray for them. Mrs. Willis says that she prays for the Ryan’s. Think about that. She prays for Ryan and his family!

  • musingsofaphilosopher

    This family has definitely been a wonderful blessing and encouragement to those of us who have known them. The truth is, there are very few people who could go through something like this and maintain the hope and joy that they have. I hope that her new book will encourage others and help them to look for answers from the Bible and accept the hope that Christ offers for eternity.

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