It’s not often that my husband, Peter, (formerly known here as Peter-153167) and I get to go grocery shopping together, but this shopping trip was special. Instead of going out to a restaurant to celebrate our second wedding anniversary, we decided to cook a fancy meal together at home. We had a blast picking out our filet mignons, side dish fixings, and fresh Florida key limes so we could make Paula Deen’s to-die-for key lime pie recipe.
With the trunk of my husband’s car laden with our special groceries and our 12-month-old son, Mark, firmly strapped into his car seat in the back, Pete climbed into the driver’s seat and turned to me wondering which route we should take home.
“Let’s take the scenic route,” I said, spur of the moment.
Since we live on the edge of town near the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, neither Pete nor I can easily pass up an opportunity to drive home through the gorgeous rolling hills of Virginia horse country and farmland.
It happened so fast and yet, even now, I can see the whole thing played out in my mind like a movie in slow motion.
An out-of-town retired couple in a minivan was confused about which direction they should be traveling along the country road with a double-yellow-line and 55 mph speed limit. Not seeing any oncoming traffic, they decided to quickly veer to the side of the road and pull an illegal U-turn.
The gentleman driving did not see our oncoming vehicle until he started pulling out into our lane and heard my husband’s frantic horn. Pete did everything he could to avoid the accident. He swerved into the oncoming lane of traffic and even over to the tall grass on the far side of the road. But Pete’s skillful driving was no match for a nervous elderly driver who, instead of hitting the brakes when he saw and heard us, panicked and floored his gas pedal instead.
The next instant the full force of a Toyota Sienna slammed into the passenger side of our car, sending our vehicle into a fishtail spin. When we stopped, we were sideways straddling the opposing lane of traffic.
The only sound I heard was my baby boy’s screams in the back seat. Within seconds of the car coming to rest, I had my seatbelt off and was furiously trying to get out of the car so I could check on my little boy.
My door, however, had been crushed upon impact, and it wouldn’t budge an inch. The door behind mine was crumpled so much that it was practically missing entirely.
I had heard stories of motherly visceral reactions to the distress of her child, but I had never felt it this strongly before. My entire world – my life’s one and only goal at that moment – was to get to my child and care for him.
My husband is convinced that if he hadn’t moved out of my way I would’ve climbed over him on my way out the driver’s side door, regardless of the fact I was more than five months pregnant. I wanted – I needed – to feel and touch and know my firstborn was OK.
By the grace of God and the protection of some mighty guardian angels, everyone involved in the car accident was completely fine, including my little Mark.
It took a while to settle his screaming – he was petrified by the loud noises, the fish-tailing car, and the fact a minivan “visited him in the back seat,” as my husband puts it – but physically he was perfect. The brunt of the car’s damage was located squarely at Mark’s backseat door, but the debris fell to the outside, leaving Mark spared of all injury.
The summer of my discontent
So began a very inconvenient summer for our little family. Ruined groceries, shaken up emotions on the eve of our anniversary, tri-weekly visits to the chiropractor for our various back and neck injuries, loss of Pete’s vehicle for almost two months, countless phone calls with car insurance companies, medical insurance companies, and the list goes on.
And yet, Pete and I are both overwhelmed by God’s incredible graciousness and sovereign protection over our family throughout this unfortunate event. If we had to be in a car-totaling-accident, nothing could have gone more smoothly than it did in our situation.
When the accident occurred, sending our car flying into the wrong lane of traffic on a hilly, winding, fast-moving road, there were no oncoming vehicles for at least a minute, allowing us time to get out of the car and out of danger’s way. The first car to come around the bend and happen upon the accident stopped and blocked the rest of traffic to protect us.
Mark’s car seat was located in the middle of the back seat so that he was completely untouched upon the impact that crumpled his door. I often sit in the back seat next to Mark if Pete is driving, to keep him entertained. I can’t bear to dwell on what could or would have happened to our unborn baby if I had been sitting next to Mark, instead of riding shotgun next to Pete.
The couple in the minivan who hit us was slightly elderly, but they too walked away from their damaged vehicle without a scratch.
The Lord was very, very good to us. And in the wake of this chaotic incident, He gently taught me several important life lessons as well.
I learned never to take for granted praying daily the Guardian Angel prayer, and I intend to pray it every day with my children for as long as they are under my roof. I have no doubt that myriads of angels were with our vehicle that day, keeping us safe in the shadow of their wings.
Pete and I both hang blessed St. Benedict’s medal crucifixes from the rear-view mirrors of our cars. I now want to buy enough of those small crucifixes for all of my family and friends’ vehicles.
I no longer take for granted the power of sacramentals and fervent prayers said over vehicles and at the beginning of road trips. I am confident the Lord hears those prayers and sends his angels to guard and guide our ways (c.f. Psalm 91!).
The Lord also gave me new insight into how profoundly and deeply He loves me, His child. My love for and concern for my son in the midst of chaos was one of the most powerful emotions I’ve ever felt. I would have done anything, given anything, borne any amount of pain and suffering, in exchange for his safety, health, and well-being.
And yet, I know that any emotion I experience as a created human being is but a minuscule reflection of how the Heavenly Father feels about His children. God’s love for each of us is an ocean so deep and a mountain so high that my mind cannot begin to grasp its power…but I am most grateful for it. A Father who is willing to sacrifice His only Son for my wellbeing and the safeguarding of my destiny loves me with a love so profound it’s almost too painful to dwell on.
The summer of 2011 will always hold mixed-emotion memories for Pete and I, but I hope what we take with us moving forward will be a profound sense of gratitude for our Heavenly Father who loves us, watches over us, and protects us so perfectly each and every day.
If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.”