There are questions in life that have no answers.
Cornerstone freshman Erin Swinger asked hers early on a Sunday morning, barely hours after she had attended her grandfather's funeral.
"It was a Sunday morning about 8:30 a.m.," said Swinger. "My mother came into my room to wake me and tell me that my best friend had been killed in a snowmobile accident. I was stunned, and I kept asking 'Why?'. I know that God is faithful, and that he never makes mistakes. But I just couldn't figure out why it happened."
Swinger had just completed a difficult couple of weeks. Her grandfather went into the hospital for a gall bladder problem two days before Christmas.
"It was supposed to be a routine thing," said Swinger. "He's a tough guy and he'd been in the hospital before. We thought he'd be home for Christmas."
But things didn't turn out that way.
"He turned critical and they moved him to intensive care," Swinger said. "They didn't want anybody to visit him and over-stimulate him."
Swinger had planned on a holiday trip to Florida with church friends.
"My mom told me to go," she said. "So we left the day after Christmas. On New Year's Eve my dad called and told me things weren't going well and it was probably a matter of hours. Then the next morning, just before I boarded the plane to come home, he called again to say they had taken my grandfather off life support and he had gone quickly.
"All I could do is come home and go see my grandma.""
Swinger is a member of the Cornerstone track and field team, a promising young athlete specializing in shot and discus.
"Not only is Erin a great fit for Cornerstone University, she is exactly the type of athlete we look for in our program," said track and field coach Rod Wortley. "She's committed to her teammates and is willing to work very hard to achieve ambitious goals.
"Already this season she's leading the conference in 20-lb. weight throw, which is a new event for her."
"We were doing two-a-days so I went back to practice that Monday," Swinger said. "In the morning it seemed to go OK, but in the afternoon I couldn't practice. I sat the whole time and talked with a friend, who was comforting me."
Because of visitations and family obligations, she didn't go back to practice that week.
The funeral was held on Jan. 9 at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, and the next morning she found out about her friend.
"We had been best friends forever," Swinger said. "Our mothers were best friends in high school. We home schooled together, played soccer together, graduated together. I never lived more than 10 minutes from her. It would have been devastating by itself, but coming so close after the first funeral, it really knocked me back."
When Swinger came back to her dorm room later that week, she found a vase of flowers, a card, a balloon and a Teddy bear at her door.
"It made me cry, but it gave me some peace, too," Swinger said. "To know that my team cared for me and would be there for me."
"Losing a friend at 18 years of age is so hard," said Wortley. "It was wonderful to see our athletes, who went through the experience of losing one of their teammates two years earlier, envelop Erin with exceptional care.
"They were asking the same questions and feeling the same hurt and loss in 2008. In 2010 they're helping Erin walk through the same experience. That's the kind of team we want to be."
With an outstanding athletic resume, Swinger had a number of options for college.
"Actually, I wasn't thinking about Cornerstone," she said, even though her uncle, Rich Gordon, was a long-time holder of the school's discus record, while her brother Grant and cousins Brad and Travis Smith were cross country and track and field alumni of the school.
"I was visiting schools and got a call asking if I wanted to visit," she said. "I was making other visits, so I decided I might as well. And I fell in love with the place. I love the campus, I enjoyed the people I met, I felt comfortable with the atmosphere.
"Plus, they needed a thrower. I look back on it now and I can see what a blessing it was for me, because it allowed me to be here, close to home and my family when tragedy struck. I am really glad I came here."
Swinger played basketball and volleyball in high school, in addition to track, but now she is a one-sport specialist.
"It has helped me discipline myself because we do so much training before we get into meets and actually compete," she said.
"Academically it isn't a problem because I've been in sports all my life. So this is all I know, budgeting my time to fit everything in. I think competing has shaped my life, helped me learn to set priorities, even to get along with people that I just don't click with.
"When you are on a team you learn that you have to work and train and respect everybody," she added. "And that is something I will take with me after I graduate."
Swinger can't help asking the question, even though she knows everything has a purpose.
"God is in charge," she said. "I can't help wonder why this happened, put I will always put my trust in Him."