Heaven on Wheels
One by one, they arrive on their Harleys. Young to middle-aged men wearing ponytails, beards, Sturgis T-shirts, bandannas, black leather vests and matching chaps. Women in fringed leather jackets and denim. Those who don't ride much anymore come by car, but they still dress the part.
If they were pulling up outside of a bar, they'd be an intimidating bunch. But they're heading to church, former black sheep in the Lord's flock. Inside, they'll raise their hands, lean their heads back and sway to a Christian rock band. All glory and honor to my Savior. All glory to my King. All glory and honor to my Savior. Master of everything.
Every Friday night, anywhere from forty to a hundred bikers, many with kids in tow, make the pilgrimage to Church in the Wind. This is where they've found salvation -- and not just in the religious sense.
This evening, Pastor Gary Davis is talking about being content with who you are. Don't compare yourself to other people based on the way you dress, the job you hold or the possessions you own. Invoking one of his favorite refrains, he reminds the congregation: "Don't put me on a pedestal, because when I fall off, you'll get hurt."
After the sermon, the bikers wander outside Riverside Baptist Church, where Church in the Wind holds its services, to smoke and chat. When Riverside Baptist members who attend church on Sunday started complaining about Friday night's leftovers, Gary introduced a "butt patrol."
While Riverside is a Southern Baptist church, the pastor's group is non-denominational. "Since we don't tout any one doctrine, we've been accused of being Bapticostal," he jokes.
Riverside's congregation accepts the bikers for the most part, although a few people still stare at them when they attend regular services. "When we go on Sundays, we have a loud leather section," says one Church in the Wind member. "Some people think that because we're Christian, we should start dressing differently and give up everything, including smoking."
At Church in the Wind, they didn't have to give up anything to get something they'd been seeking much of their lives: acceptance.
The man who made this unique fellowship possible was Rick Ferguson, senior pastor at Riverside Baptist Church, which is perched just off I-25 above Invesco Field at Mile High. Ferguson's death in a car accident four months ago stunned his followers, bikers included.
But Church in the Wind didn't give up, and this month it celebrates its sixth anniversary. What started as one little ministry in Denver is multiplying, with seven sister churches across the country and several more in the works. It's just like the loaves and fishes in the New Testament, expanding to accommodate everyone.
Peggy Papineau was the classic biker bitch. She'd fight anyone, man or woman. All you had to do was look at her wrong and she'd be in your face. And if you flirted with her man...well, you'd better jump on your bike and speed off.
When Peggy was five months pregnant, a customer in the bar where she was working stole her purse. Peggy saw the woman running off and confronted her. "I grabbed hold of her hair and said, 'What do you want to lose, your hair or my purse?' She dropped my purse, but I still had her hair in my hand," she remembers. The bartender finally had to pull Peggy off the woman and remind her that an expectant mother shouldn't be picking fights.
Peggy didn't start out mean. She came from a stable Catholic family, and with her parents and two younger brothers, moved from Missouri to Colorado when she was a junior in high school. Then Peggy, now 38, met a man and fell in love. He was a drug dealer turned police informant who appeared to be coming clean. They'd been dating for a year and were going to get married when, one day, Peggy was talking to him on the phone and heard a gunshot. Then silence. Someone -- probably a drug dealer who'd discovered the boyfriend was a snitch -- had come into his apartment and shot him in the back of the head.
"I was just devastated," Peggy says. "After that, things went downhill. I started drinking and spending lots of time in bars."
It was at a bar that she met the man who would become her first husband -- a guy ten years her senior who was a dead ringer for Alabama crooner Randy Owens. "That's when I got into drugs. He was a heroin addict," recalls Peggy, who did speed, pot and mushrooms and became addicted to cocaine herself.
Her new husband also belonged to a now-defunct biker club out of Las Vegas. "He beat me constantly," she says. "I couldn't cook right, clean right, do anything right. And he wouldn't let me see my family."
But he did let her strip at private parties -- as long as he was there to supervise. And when she wasn't taking her clothes off for money, Peggy was sitting on a bar stool next to her husband. "We were there from the time they opened until the time they closed," Peggy says between drags on her cigarette. "I used to drink Jack Daniel's straight."
The biker club her husband belonged to was the kind that gives bikers everywhere a bad name. One of its rituals called for the wives and girlfriends of new members to sleep with all of the brothers. "To them, you weren't a woman; you were a piece of property that could be traded or sold," Peggy says. "I told him I wouldn't sleep with the other members, and that made him really mad."
One day shortly after refusing her husband's request, Peggy went outside their house to get something from her truck. She was grabbed from behind, blindfolded and driven to a house. There she was brutally raped by her husband's biker brothers. "I don't know if it was hours or days," she says. "All I remember was a guy coming downstairs and saying, 'That's enough, let her go.' And I remember hearing my husband's voice saying, 'Don't you ever disrespect me again. This is payback.'"
Out of fear, Peggy says, she stayed with her husband for another month. During that time, he got it in his head that she'd been cheating on him and beat her so badly that she was left with three stitches in her head, a concussion, a broken rib, two black eyes and rug burns from being dragged across the carpet. She finally left him after that, hiding out at her parents' house until she felt safe enough to move out on her own.
The rapes still haunt her, and she's only recently started talking about them. She stopped trusting men after that, she explains, and no longer wanted to look feminine. "I used to be pretty," she says. "But after the rape, I stopped looking like a woman. I stopped curling my hair and wearing makeup and dresses. I started wearing T-shirts and jeans. I didn't want anyone to look at me."
Although leery of men, Peggy eventually started dating again. While shopping at a Safeway store, she met the man who would become her second husband. He was not in a biker club, nor was he violent, but he had a string of bad habits -- stealing cars, driving drunk and dealing drugs -- that made him a frequent guest in the Big House. During one of his jail-free periods, he and Peggy, then 23, conceived a child. The baby was due in late October 1987, and Peggy's mother-in-law, a woman who considered herself to be devoutly religious, feared he'd be born on Halloween. "She told me I was going to have the devil's baby," Peggy recalls.
Instead, David was born three months early, severely underweight as a result of Peggy's coke use and barely clinging to life. "I made every promise in the book to let my son live," she remembers. "I told God I'd stop drinking, smoking and doing drugs, and I didn't keep any of them, but He let my son live anyway."
When she was finally able to bring David home two months later, he weighed only four pounds. "I carried him on a pillow," she says.
Peggy's brother Steve died in a car accident seven months later. "The first thing my mother-in-law told me when she heard that was, 'The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,'" Peggy says. "She said that God took my brother to save my son, and I believed it. For a long time I blamed my son and myself, because my son was not supposed to make it. My brother was the straight-A student in school and he'd just been drafted for the Philadelphia Phillies. He was the apple of my father's eye. I thought it should have been me in that car instead of Steve."
Peggy's anger, sadness and confusion over her brother's death stayed with her for years.
After divorcing her second husband, Peggy found love again -- and this time, it was real. She was waitressing at a Waffle House when she met Armand Papineau, who came in to eat with his roommate. He didn't just seem different; he was different. He liked to ride motorcycles, but he wasn't in a biker club. And he liked to have a good time, but he wasn't into drugs or heavy drinking.
"When I went on dates with my other husbands, they'd tell me to put on my prettiest dress, and we'd end up at McDonald's," Peggy remembers. "Armand knows good food and the right kind of wine to drink with it. We went to an Italian restaurant once, and there were four forks on the table. I'm a farm girl, and I only use one fork, but Armand taught me which was which."
She and Armand eventually got married. Armand's daughter from a previous marriage moved in with them; Peggy was happy to have her and grateful that her son had a stable father figure. They were finally living a normal life.
A few years into the marriage, though, things started to fall apart. Peggy and Armand fell behind in their mortgage payments and almost lost their house. They'd already lost a motorcycle, and the stress of their financial situation was taking its toll. "We were fighting all the time," Peggy says.
Armand found an outlet for his stress. Once a month, he attended a HOG (Harley Owners' Group) meeting in Thornton, where he met Gary Davis, pastor of the newly formed Church in the Wind. The two men started going on rides together, and Armand began confiding in the pastor about his problems. Gary invited him to attend a service at Riverside Baptist Church and Armand accepted -- without telling Peggy.
"One Sunday, Armand asked me to go for a ride with him, and I said, 'Sure.' Then he told me that the ride starts at a church and that he'd been going there for a while," Peggy remembers. "I told him to go by himself: I wasn't going to set foot in a church. He kept asking me, so I finally said okay, but I had an attitude from the moment I sat down.
"I went with him a couple of times and then, in a sermon two months later, Rick Ferguson said that the Lord loves you no matter what you do. He said, 'Once you have Jesus, he won't walk away.' That's what hit home; I really needed that. I needed to know I was loved and that I could love someone with no strings attached.
"I didn't think God could love me after everything I'd done. Pastor Ferguson said that all you have to do is ask Him into your heart. As soon as I did, I felt as light as a feather. I turned to Armand and I had tears rolling down my face. I told him I'd go up to the altar with him. We were baptized together two months later."
Their marriage began to improve, and on their sixth anniversary, they renewed their vows, with Pastor Gary performing the ceremony. Church in the Wind soon filled their life. "We had something going on every night," Peggy says. "If it wasn't church, it was a run; we'd ride our bikes from one house to another. We'd eat dinner at one place, dessert at another and have Bible studies."
Even though Peggy was happier than she'd been in a long time, doubts were still eating away at her. Why had God taken her brother away? Was it because you have to lose something in order to gain something, as her mother-in-law had told her several years before? But then Diana, Gary Davis's wife, sat her down. "Diana told me that's not true," Peggy says. "She said that my brother's time was up and that God took him home."
Finally, Peggy found peace. With it came new resolve.
A few years ago, she was working for a Star Wars fan club, screening mail. One of her co-workers was a drug dealer who was always trying to get her to do coke. She'd been drug-free for a couple of years, but it was still tempting. A month after she'd become a Christian, Peggy was standing outside when the co-worker started pressuring her again, dangling a baggie of white powder in front of her. Suddenly, Peggy felt bold and fearless. "I took the bag and the little spoon and looked him straight in the face," she remembers. "I said, 'I don't need this: I have Jesus, and you need Him, too.' I turned the bag upside down, dumped it on the ground and walked back inside.
"It didn't hit me until I walked into the building. I was like, 'What did I do? He could have killed me!' But I never saw him again."
The force was with her.
Peggy's transformation, like so many others, makes Gary Davis proud.
The pastor, who also answers to "Rev" or "Preacher Gary," is a burly man who will sneak up behind you and steal food off your plate if you're not careful. "I used to be skinny," Gary chuckles, finishing off a plate of chili-smothered eggs at McCoy's, where he and his fellow bikers are regulars.
Gary laughs at himself a lot; it's part of his humble persona that puts strangers instantly at ease. Although members of Church in the Wind appreciate his easygoing, self-deprecating ways, the pastor's tell-it-like-it-is attitude is what really commands respect.
Gary polished that no-bullshit demeanor three decades ago, during a two-and-a-half-year stint in an outlaw biker club whose identity he'd rather not reveal. "It wasn't the Hells Angels," he says, but it was a wild time nonetheless. "There'd always be a ride on the weekend, and when we got to where we were going, it was a party," he remembers. "Occasionally there'd be fights, and some of the guys did drugs, but I did not."
"That was my department," interjects Diana, his wife.
Gary was working for an automotive-supply business back then, and three of his co-workers were in the same biker club; they all drank a lot, and one of the men had a particularly bad alcohol problem. "One day after a club run, I came in and he was all cleaned up and spiffy, and he didn't have the usual strong smell of alcohol on his breath," Gary recalls. "I asked him what happened, and he said he'd met Jesus. I was like, 'Yeah, sure.' I figured in a week he'd be back to where he was, but he stayed clean for several months, and it intrigued me, so I went to church with him one Sunday.
"They had a guest speaker that day, and I felt like he was talking to me. I was going through a bad time in my personal life, and I was in a bad marriage. He said he didn't care what the question was; the answer was Jesus. I got comfort from that."
Gary decided right then to become a Christian, and he noticed an immediate change in his attitude. "I instantaneously quit drinking," he says. "And the desire to hang out with everyone at the club disappeared."
He'd only joined the biker group because he wanted to be with people who would accept him for the anti-establishment Southern California native he was, Gary explains. After he became a Christian, he no longer craved their acceptance. "I didn't need them, and because I kept talking about God, they didn't need me," he says. "A few months later, I stepped out of the club."
Since then, Gary has been an inspiration to numerous bikers. He's appeared, like an angel, to many people just when they needed him the most. One of those people was Diana.
"I was busy trying to find the meaning of life, and it meant doing drugs and going from guy to guy," remembers Diana, a hippie who had never been involved with bikers until she met Gary. In the '70s, she took speed, smoked pot and even snorted animal tranquilizers. "I finally got tired of life. I couldn't trust any man; all of them were unfaithful. One night I sat down and wrote a suicide note, leaving my three kids to my mother. I took out all the prescription drugs in the house and poured a drink, and then there was a knock on the door."
It was Gary. They'd met through mutual friends and had been flirting with each other for a while, but Diana figured he was like all the other men. "My thought was, 'Cool. We'll play, and when he leaves, I'll do my deed,'" Diana recalls. "I was not going to let anyone else reject me."
But Gary, who says he'd felt an inexplicable but nagging need to visit Diana that night, wasn't going to make things easy for her. "He had on a belt buckle that said 'Jesus is Lord,' and I kept looking at it; it was driving me crazy!" Diana remembers. "I said, 'I don't understand how you can wear that.' He told me to get my Bible. I had a burning question: I'd lost a son to crib death, and I wanted to know where he was. Gary led me to a verse that gave me such comfort."
The verse was from Mark: Some people were bringing little children to Him so He might touch them. But His disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw it, He was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to Me; don't stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you: Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." After taking them in His arms, He laid His hands on them and blessed them.
"I knew I'd found some truth," Diana says. "And I wanted to know more."
Gary held her and talked to her all night. "It was the first time I didn't feel like a piece of meat," she remembers. After Gary left her house, she felt hopeful for the first time, and all thoughts of suicide vanished. Seven months later, in January 1980, they married. It was the second marriage for both of them.
Not long after that, Gary found his calling. "I felt the Lord tugging at my heart to work with bikers," he recalls. He decided to go to where the bikers were -- and now he had the perfect companion, since Diana had gone from hippie chick to motorcycle mama. She'd hop on the back of Gary's 1954 Harley, and together they'd ride to monthly biker events. They'd hang out in bars and wait until some biker asked about religion -- and one always would. Gary and Diana didn't smoke, drink or swear, and Gary was wearing that Jesus belt buckle, as well as a cross-emblazoned hat and T-shirt. When anyone asked what a tough-looking biker was doing with all those crosses, Gary was glad to provide an answer.
In 1984, the Davises joined a church in Broomfield, where Gary became a deacon and an elder, but they continued their motorcycle mission, too. In 1988, Gary and Diana went to Sturgis, South Dakota, for the country's biggest annual biker rally. There they met up with Preacher Mike, head of the Christian Crusaders, a group that had been reaching out to bikers for over a decade. Preacher Mike held revival meetings in a huge tent that filled up fast. Most of the bikers came to hear the music, but many ended up listening to the message.
Enough bikers were showing an interest in what Gary had to say that in 1989, the Davises began hosting Bible-study groups on Saturday nights. Since other people at the Broomfield church they attended didn't feel comfortable with a bunch of bikers meeting there after hours, Gary and Diana hosted the studies in their own home. "It got to the point where there were 35 to 40 people showing up," Diana remembers.
Although their evangelizing in Colorado was going well, when Gary and Diana returned to Sturgis in 1994, they were met with hostility -- including from some people they'd considered close friends. "People were almost spitting in our faces," Diana says.
After that week, they were almost ready to give up. They were discouraged by their reception at Sturgis and tired of having their home overrun by bikers, albeit Christian ones. One day when Gary picked Diana up at work, he told a colleague of hers what had happened in Sturgis and how they were planning to stop scooting for souls.
That colleague was a member of Riverside Baptist Church. He told Gary that Riverside's new pastor, Rick Ferguson, was thinking of ways to attract more parishioners to the gigantic church overlooking downtown.
Riverside had been suffering from dwindling attendance for years. Shortly after Ferguson became senior pastor there in 1991, he found himself staring out the window at the growing city below -- and came up with the Arms Around Denver program. "His vision was to build churches that would build churches that would build churches," Gary says.
Doing so would mean targeting people who wouldn't otherwise join a Southern Baptist church -- members of different ethnic groups, perhaps. Or bikers.
Diana's colleague suggested that Gary talk to Rick's assistant for missions, Duane Arledge. "I figured I'd talk to one more person and then shut it down," Gary says.
But Arledge and Ferguson were excited about reaching out to bikers, and they invited the Davises to join their church. Four months later, Gary became an associate pastor at Riverside Baptist and the minister in charge of motorcycle evangelism. Although he had taken some seminary classes, he didn't have a divinity degree. But the people at Riverside "recognized the calling," Gary says, and ordained him.
The Denver Association of Southern Baptists owned an abandoned church in Globeville that it wanted to see occupied, and it had leased the building to Riverside for a dollar a year. Arledge and Ferguson decided the Globeville church was a perfect place for bikers to meet for Bible studies and potlucks.
And it was, until bikers realized that it was down the street from a chophouse -- a place where stolen vehicles are stripped. The bikers worried about parking their expensive bikes outside, and attendance at Bible class suffered as a result. So Gary went back to Arledge and asked if he could use Riverside's chapel for Friday-night services. Arledge agreed.
Gary Davis had a place for his parish, and soon he had a name. A friend of his had started a biker church in Phoenix in 1989, which he called Church in the Wind. After that church shut down in 1995, Gary adopted the name for his own ministry. On November 1, 1996, Denver's Church in the Wind held its first service.
Gary couldn't have established the church without Rick Ferguson's enthusiastic support. "If I ran into a struggle or a problem, Rick would see me immediately," he says. "We miss him greatly."
This past July, Ferguson and his family were heading to Missouri for a nephew's graduation when a tire blew out on their car. Rick's son, who was driving, escaped with minor injuries, as did Rick's wife. But the pastor died almost immediately.
Today, several church leaders are splitting Ferguson's duties at Riverside Baptist, and a committee has just been assembled to search for his successor. In the meantime, though, his efforts to reach out to diverse communities have continued. There are now close to thirty satellite churches that Riverside has either partnered with or helped start, including a Vietnamese church, a Romanian church and an Indonesian church.
And subsets are growing out of the subsets. Gary has helped bikers start Church in the Wind ministries in seven other cities: Tyler, Texas; Midland, Texas; Longview, Texas; Lindale, Texas; Farmington, New Mexico; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Kansas City, Kansas. Many of the bikers in those congregations had heard about Denver's Church in the Wind through Southern Baptist newsletters or word of mouth; Gary aided them in choosing pastors and offered tips on how to approach hard-core bikers. Gary is now talking to bikers in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, California, Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania about founding more churches.
Gary's church is part of a national trend in biker ministries, according to Rudy "Rude Dog" Ward, past president of Disciples of Thunder, a Thornton-based motorcycle ministry that's been around for eight years. "I've seen a lot of growth in the last three years," Rudy says. "When I went to Hollister, California, this year for their annual bike rally, I saw fourteen different Christian motorcycle groups represented and only three regular clubs."
Several biker fellowships have Colorado connections, including Disciples of Jerusalem, Soldiers of Jesus and the Christian Motorcycle Association. Around the country, there are more groups: the Tribe of Judah, the Ugly Christian Bikers Association, Bikers for Christ, the Sons of God Motorcycle Ministry and the Canada-based International Christian Bikers Association, whose motto is "Reaching the Seemingly Unreachable."
Other than that chilly reception in Sturgis over eight years ago, non-Christian bikers have been accepting of their more devout brethren.
There are 110,000 registered motorcycles in Colorado today and about thirty non-Christian clubs. "We do our thing and they do theirs, and it works fantastically," says Bandido Wild Bill, a twenty-year member of the Bandidos, president of the Colorado Confederation of Clubs and manager of Bobo's Bar and Grill.
"We very rarely see Christian groups preaching; it's not like they're on a membership drive. They're like, 'Here's what we believe, and you're welcome to join.' I'm not going to try to turn them into bad guys, and they're not going to try to turn us into church-goers," says Bill, adding that Christians are a common sight at biker events these days. "I remember seeing Christian bikers for the first time twenty years ago, and it was kind of weird."
At first, Bill admits, a lot of bikers didn't regard Christian motorcyclists as true clubbers. But as the number of Christian riders has grown, they've all learned to co-exist. "It's becoming more accepted as religion relaxes its grip on everyone," Bill says. "They're not going to come to the clubhouse and get drunk with us, but otherwise they're just like me. I mean, the reason we're all here is because we love motorcycling."
Even though Disciples of Thunder is a ministry rather than a club, Rudy says it's treated like a club by other bikers and is invited to local biker events as well as other biker clubhouses. And like any other biker club, Disciples have membership requirements. Being a Christian and riding a bike isn't enough: New members have to earn their patch -- although through initiation rites that are much more seemly than standard biker practices. Newcomers go through a six-month prospect period during which they must demonstrate servitude. For example, if would-be Disciples are hanging out at the Bandidos' clubhouse, they should ask their hosts if they can get them anything to drink.
Like Gary, Rudy spends time at bars if that's where his flock leads him. "If someone pulls out a joint, I don't tell them not to smoke it; I'm not there to condemn. We don't push our beliefs; we show by example. I don't drink, smoke or do drugs," he says. "We'll say prayers while we're eating, and it doesn't bug them. And sometimes, brothers who aren't Christian will come to us in private and ask us to pray for them when things aren't going well in their lives.
"Some biker ministries are too pushy," Rudy continues. "I've heard some of them at rallies yelling through megaphones, 'You're going to hell! Repent!' I don't even like that, and I'm a Christian. But Church in the Wind is not pushy at all. Gary Davis is welcomed with open arms wherever he goes. Everyone respects him."
Bill agrees. "Gary is a wonderful guy," he says. "He does a lot to help the biker community, even if they're not religious. When we have a death in the family or an emergency, Church in the Wind is there for us."
"It's a challenging group of people he works with," adds Riverside's Duane Arledge. "It's a group that's pretty much ignored by mainstream society. Society in general doesn't know what to do with bikers, but Gary does."
While Gary is grateful to Arledge and Riverside for giving his congregation shelter, he thinks it's about time for Church in the Wind to move out on its own. The church definitely needs more space; its offices are still located in the Davis house. In addition to Friday-night services, Gary would like to be able to host Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, serve meals to the hungry, and more easily disperse items from its food bank and donated-clothes collection (which often includes a lot of leather).
Many bikers live in the suburbs north of the city and find it difficult to get downtown on Friday nights when sporting or cultural events tie up I-25, so relocating the Friday service to north Denver would be more convenient. Then again, bikers who live in Castle Rock and Littleton often can't make it through rush-hour traffic to reach the church, so a location in south Denver would be good, too. Gary and Diana agree that Friday night is still the best time to meet, because bikers aren't going to give up their Saturday and Sunday rides -- not for God, not for anyone.
But while the congregation is growing, it doesn't have money to purchase or lease another building right now. Gary's pinned his hopes on someone with a big wallet and a soft spot for born-again bikers. In the meantime, the lack of funds doesn't stop him from dreaming. "If the Bandidos and Hells Angels can have chapters in France and Denmark and Germany," he says, "why can't Church in the Wind?"
From the way Peggy Papineau acts today, you'd never know she used to be a barroom brawler. She welcomes newcomers to Church in the Wind with the warmth of a den mother, all the while keeping a vigilant eye on fifteen-year-old David.
Peggy is strong now, and the bitterness she carried around with her for much of her life is gone. But she's going to need all the strength she can muster for life's latest blow: Two months ago, Peggy learned that she has an incurable blood infection that probably originated from a fungal infection in her foot.
"The doctors don't know how long I have to live," Peggy says. "When I found out, I cried for two days. I said to God, 'I finally believe in you, my marriage is good, and now this?'"
The bad news doesn't end there. Peggy's best friend, a woman from church, was just diagnosed with lymphoma. Armand, Peggy's husband, recently lost his construction job, and Peggy, who teaches preschool and kindergarten and cleans houses, is having a hard time paying for her costly medication. "I think it's just a test of our faith," explains Peggy. "The thing that really hurts is that I'm leaving behind my son and husband.
"I always thought smoking would kill me," she jokes. "Boy, was I wrong."
If she hadn't found her faith and Church in the Wind, Peggy knows she'd be a wreck. "I would have dwelled on it and cried all the time and gone into a deep depression," she says. "It probably would have eaten me up.
"But now I know I'm going to a better place, and I'm at peace with it."
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