Robyn Bickerton, 2013 graduate, talks about her challenges and blessings during her years at Westmont
Embracing the Gift of Life
She lost her room in the 2008 Tea Fire, her best friend at Westmont developed cancer, and she barely survived a car crash in 2011. Robyn Bickerton hasn’t enjoyed a typical Westmont experience. “I would never ask God to give me or anyone else what I went through,” she says. “But I thank God for the ways I have been able to see Him, for how He has been there, and for who I have become as a result. Spiritually, I have grown so much in my Westmont years.”
Robyn graduated in May—a year late—with a degree in communication studies. “The best part of Westmont is its community,” she says. “Through the Tea Fire, I saw the body of Christ in action when the Westmont community supported, encouraged and loved us,” she says.
She spent the night of the fire inside the gym, with smoke seeping under the doors. “People were praying and singing praises and songs to God,” she says. “I had this overwhelming sense of peace—but it was a terrifying experience.”
When her close friend, Kim Ramirez ’12, was diagnosed with cancer, she and several others moved in together to support Kim. “Westmont provided an off-campus house, and faculty and people from church delivered meals while praying, supporting and loving us,” Robyn says.
The summer before her senior year, Robyn worked in Ensenada, Mexico, as an intern at Agua Viva, run by Brent ’85 and Allyson Brubaker ’85 Searway. She had served in Mexico with her church and Potter’s Clay and in Kenya and Nicaragua. “I thought God was preparing me to be a long-term missionary abroad,” she says. “But He showed me the people I served didn’t have many possessions but were alive spiritually. It made me aware of spiritual poverty in the United States and inspired me to live for God.”
On Aug. 10, 2011, while returning home to Martinez, Calif., Robyn lost control of her car, and it rolled seven times. She doesn’t remember the single-car accident, which left her with a serious brain injury, fractured and shattered bones, and a punctured lung. An off-duty fire captain saved her life by clearing her airway.
Robyn remained in a medically induced coma for 15 days and spent two months in the hospital before beginning intensive speech, physical and occupational therapy. “I learned I am a very determined person, because therapy is really hard,” she says. “But God strengthened me—and gave me joy and laughter.”
Robyn attended Commencement in 2012 and enrolled in a Mayterm acting course. “It was such a joy to be back on campus in a loving and supportive community,” she says. “It was the perfect class for me while I was healing.”
Despite her severe injuries, she received the award as the outstanding graduate in her major. Her professors wrote, “Robyn has always had a great work ethic, a persistence that manifested itself in uniformly outstanding work. . . . Since her accident, she has needed to redouble her academic efforts, which has led to the same high quality results—but with more contemplative reflections about suffering and the ways the brain and body communicate.”
In the fall, Robyn will work with students as a staff member in Westmont’s Campus Life Office. “Life is a gift from God, and I seek to live the rest of my life giving back to Him what he has graciously and generously given to me,” she says.