Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Careening into Blackness

What do you do when a Pontiac GTO going 60 miles per hour suddenly plows into the back of your stopped Volkswagen square back, sending you careening into blackness?

My husband was in Vietnam in 1969. It was the end of the Labor Day weekend, and I was driving back to my home in Anchorage, Alaska, after visiting my folks in Valdez. A friend rode along on the six-hour drive each way. It was dark when, nine miles from home, I rounded a bend in the two-lane highway to find two moose skittering down the frosty road.

No one wants a ton of moose landing on their hood, let alone two of them, especially when the engine is in the rear of a Volkswagen. Since no one was immediately behind me, I stopped. The moose wandered to the side of the road as I downshifted to go on. At that moment, two cars appeared around the bend and passed me. I honked my horn to warn them. Then, WHAM!

A blinding jolt! I screamed, "Oh, Jesus, help us!" I blacked out momentarily then hung on for the ride of my life. Scared I would hit a tree, I pushed my foot on the brake as hard as I could, laying down 32 feet of rubber on the roadway before veering off and rolling over and over as though in slow motion. It seemed to take forever before my car finally came to rest on its right side.

The windshield had popped out. I was hanging in the seat belt above my passenger, my head lolling from side to side. Was my neck was broken?

Almost immediately, people appeared. I didn't want them to move me, but they convinced me it was necessary. They laid us gently on the cold ground. All I could think about was my husband, who was in a war zone, thinking I was safe at home. What if I was paralyzed? What if I died?

An ambulance soon arrived. Without stabilizing my neck, the attendants picked me up to put me on the stretcher. In the darkness, one of them stepped on my long hair, yanking my head back. Certain they would paralyze me, I screamed for them to stop. They laid me back down, and I reached up to smooth my hair under my head so they could pick me up.

Thank God, X-rays showed my neck was not broken. The force of the impact broke the back of my seat, which fell flat just as the engine cover flew up and hit me across the bony point at the base of my skull. If it had hit any lower, it would have taken my head off. Instead, it gave me a five-inch gash, which bled profusely and required eight stitches, and a severe whiplash. Later medical technology revealed two herniated disks that I still suffer the effects of, but I'm alive and I'm not paralyzed.

Amazingly, no one else was seriously hurt. My passenger had a cracked rib from the seat belt. The driver of the GTO was uninjured, although his car was totaled too. He had had a few beers and was following too closely to the cars in front of him so he didn't realize I was stopped.

Isn't it amazing that the God by whom all things were created and are held together hears our cry in the time of trouble and is there to help us? When danger smacks you in the face (or back!), do you cry out to God? I know firsthand that He is "a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1). How about you?

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