By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Only on WCCO, we brought you the story of former Viking Joe Senser as he fights back after suffering a massive stroke in July.

Part of that story: His wife, Amy Senser. Jurors convicted her in the hit-and-run crash that killed a Twin Cities chef in 2011. Now, Amy Senser is dealing with her husband’s condition.

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How has she processed all of it? That’s what we wanted to know. As WCCO’s Mike Max discovered, Senser has found an interesting support family.

Joe Senser’s stroke has been the focus of the entire family. He is the rock of a family that has seen adversity, and forced them into a place they never envisioned.

“We can choose to give up and be good for nobody, or we can fight,” Amy Senser said.

Much of that comes from Joe Senser. He grew up in Hershey, Pa., in an orphanage. Later, he came back to serve on the board for the Hershey school that he attended. He’s a fighter.

“He’s so dedicated to helping the kids who are coming up, boys and girls at Hershey. That’s been a huge part of his life,” Bob Stein said.

He’s not the only Senser to have to call upon on something deep to move on. Joe’s wife, Amy, became a public focal point in 2011, when she was accused of driving in a hit-and-run crash that left Anousone Phanthavong dead.

She was convicted and served two years in prison in Shakopee. The life that looked All-American from the outside — the good looking couple with the good looking family – changed. So did Amy.

“There has been some really heartbreaking things that have happened in the past several years,” Amy said.

Here is where you find hope in mankind. Helping her deal with the dark days? The Phanthavong family. That’s right, the family who lost their loved one has given Amy Senser a gift she cannot re-pay: Forgiveness.

“I thank God for people who are forgiving and have grace and mercy, because it’s the only way to get through this life. You can’t do it alone,” Amy said.

It’s been the blessing that has allowed her to persevere, understanding she has been judged by many. She does not want to make her relationship with the family a public one, but she understands what they have done for her.

“One, to be able to forgive, and then to be forgiven, it’s the greatest gift,” Amy said. “Not only from family and friends, but the family and I don’t know how I could sit here. I wouldn’t be sitting here if I hadn’t been given that gift.”

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It is what helps her help her husband, and she hopes through her life she is setting an example for her daughters.

“My mom is the hardest working person I know and she has done everything for my dad,” Hannah Senser said. “It’s so powerful.”

“Without the forgiveness, I mean it truly is a fight. If I wasn’t forgiven, there’s no way I could stand today,” Amy said. “And that’s from everyone, including our Father on up and all the way to the family.”

Yes, it is forgiveness. The word that comes up from their spiritual advising friends.

“You believe in the scriptures that you’ve read, the prayers that you’ve prayed and the grace and understanding, the forgiveness of God. Bad things happen to good people,” family friend Greg Coleman said.

It has allowed the family to move forward and focus on Joe. But what she has learned is indeed her philosophy on life, based on faith, matters a lot.

“We’ve always said ‘Look, we don’t ask why, we just ask how. How long do we carry on?'” Amy Senser said. “Because we don’t know why.”

She knows she is under a microscope. She knows she has options as to how live her life.

“The world is always about what’s wrong and bad. I mean it can be such a hateful place but we don’t, I won’t let people take that because you can’t let people dictate who you know you are,” Amy said.

So the family moves on, now fighting another battle for Dad and keenly aware of Mom.

“I think everyone needs someone to be there for them. You need a rock in your life, and she’s mine and I hope I’m hers a little bit,” Hannah Senser said.

And knowing the new normal is undeniable, how you decide to deal with it is a choice.

“We never know how strong we are until we’ve gone through something. And then it comes to the other side, and know that you’ve done the best you can and given and shared and helped the best you can, then you think OK,” Amy said. “I can fight another day.”

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You can follow Joe Senser’s recovery, and share words of encouragement, on his CaringBridge page.

Mike Max