Sarah Hunter and Tonya Holt laughed as they drove around the twisty mountain roads towards Asheville. Dark clouds rolled over the North Carolina sky, pulling with them a threatening storm. The mood inside the car however, was warm and cheery, the girls had planned this shopping trip for weeks now and they weren’t going to let the weather stop them from going. The two friends teased each other as they carefully navigated their way toward the interstate.
“I can’t believe you actually said that to him!” Sarah told her friend, a big smile playing across her face.
“Well what was I supposed to say?”
“You could have come up with something better than, “my dog died last night.”
“Well it’s the first thing that came to me.” Tonya laughed, remembering the panicked moment.
“Well if you didn’t want to go out with him you should have told him the truth.”
“I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Besides, it’s not the first excuse I’ve given him lately. Hopefully he will get the hint and move on.”
“Tonya, you don’t even have a dog.”
Tonya laughed at the thought. “Not anymore anyway.”
Sarah shook her head and smiled. Tom had been smitten with Tonya since they were 15. It had been five years and he was still very dedicated to his quest. Sarah knew he wasn’t going anywhere.
“So how is married life? Regret your decision yet?” Tonya changed the subject.
“Oh, it’s still great. We have our moments of course, but I love being married.” Sarah smiled as she thought about her husband. Her heart swelled just thinking about him. She twisted the wedding ring on her finger and remembered when he had slipped it on her hand. Her heart beat a little faster as she thought back to their wedding day. Not even a year had gone by since she had walked down the isle towards the man she loved. Tonya had been one of her bridesmaids. Sarah smiled over at her friend.
“Don’t you ever want to get married? I remember when we used to plan every detail about our future husbands. I was sure then that you would be the first one to get married.”
“I still think about it. But God just hasn’t brought the right person along yet.”
Sarah sighed deeply and nodded to her friend. “Your right, you definitely don’t want to rush into anything. It’s better to be sure of Gods Will than to rush ahead and do your own thing.”
Tonya reached over and patted Sarah’s hand. “You sure have come along way Sarah. I’m so proud of the way you have grown in the Lord. Your life has really changed in the past few years.”
“That’s for sure. I remember when I would get so mad at you for talking about God all the time. It’s hard to believe that I am where I’m at today with the Lord.”
“I’m so happy Sarah. You’re my best friend and you have no idea what it means to me that you have given your life over the God.”
“Oh, I have a pretty good idea now.”
Sarah looked out the window at the trees flashing by the window. It had begun to rain already and droplets slid down the window in slanted streaks. A chill ran through her as she watched the flowers and tree limbs bend in the wind. She drew her arms up around her and pressed her body back against the seat. She let her mind wonder back over the past few years and everything that had happened. What would she have done without a friend like Tonya? They had grown up together and were really more like sisters than best friends.
“Oh my goodness, it’s starting to hail.”
Sarah jumped at Tonya’s serious tone, pulling herself back to the present she looked out at the small balls of hail that were thumping against the window.
“Maybe we should pull over.” Sarah suggested. “This road is awfully curvy. We may slide off or something.”
“No, it should be ok. I have new tires. Besides, there’s really no place to pull over until we get closer to the main road.”
The atmosphere in the car became tense and quite as both girls feel into silent prayer. They pushed on, trying to be careful.
“The road is getting slick. Maybe you’re right about pulling over, help me look for a driveway or something where we can pull over and wait this out. It’s getting much worse.” Tonya’s voice was shaky. Fear gripped her, draining all the heat from her body. Just then, before either girl could even utter a prayer a truck came barreling around the curve up ahead. Without having a chance to touch the brakes they collided head on. Screams filled the air but were quickly drowned out by the sound of crunching metal. Tonya released the steering wheel and grabbed for Sarah’s hand. Darkness over came her as she squeezed her friends hand and prayed, “Lord, please protect my friend.”
~ ~ ~
When Sarah awoke she felt colder than she had ever been in her life. Her rain soaked hair stuck to her face as she lifted her eyes toward Tonya in the seat next to her. Tonya sat motionless, blood streaked her face and arms but it didn’t appear to be fresh blood. Broken glass was everywhere and rain poured into the car from the broken windows, slowly, with an effort that called for all of her remaining strength, Sarah lifted her arm towards her friend. She tried to wiggle her fingers, and then realized Tonya’s hand was resting limply in her own. Sarah squeezed her fingers tighter around Tonya’s and spoke her name.
“Tonya, can you hear me? Tonya, wake up.” Her hand felt cold. But then, so did Sarah’s. Fear came over her as she began to realize what happened. They were in an accident. Yes, that’s it, she remembered the truck coming towards them, but then everything was black. She didn’t even remember feeling the impact. Reaching as far as she could with her other hand into the floor, Sarah tried to reach her purse. Grabbing it, she pulled it to her and lifted out her cell phone. The movement brought on a wavy of dizziness and fresh blood poured from somewhere on her head and ran over the phone as she tried with all her strength to keep it at her ear. Sarah could barely make out a voice on the other end.
“We have been in a car accident.” Sarah mumbled into the phone. Her speech was slurred, but she tried hard to make it clear what had happened. Sarah looked over at her friend in the drivers’ seat. “Please hurry, Tonya’s not responding.”
“Where are you mam?”
“I don’t remember.” Sarah looked out the car window at a big sign that read “Garrets Green houses next left.” Reading the sign as clearly as she could Sarah let the phone drop to the seat next to her. Her strength was gone and as she began to fade into a world of blackness a soft face with black hair and blue eyes flashed across her memory. Those eyes brought her peace as she held the picture in her mind. It was the last thing she remembered before slumping against her best friend.
~ ~ ~
Sarah’s vision blurred as she tried to open her eyes. A face looked down on her, probing her to wake up. She focused in on that face. It was the same one she had seen in the car, he was here with her. She tried to speak but he softly brushed his fingers across her lips. “Don’t talk, save your strength.” He looked away towards the opened door as if he were looking for someone.
“Scott.” Sarah could barely form the word. Her mouth was dry and her jaw felt stiff. “Where’s Tonya?”
“Shh, just lay quietly my love. I’ve rang for the doctor.” A tear ran down his cheek as he bowed his head over his wife. Emotion overcame him as he thanked his savior for bringing Sarah back to him.
Her arms were soar and stiff, but Sarah lifted her hand slowly to rest it on her husbands head. “I love you.”
Scott looked at her with a deep love in his eyes. “I love you too.”
“Please tell me. Is Tonya awake yet?”
The love in Scott’s eyes changed to sadness as he looked away. “I don’t think we should talk anymore until you’re stronger.”
Concern washed over Sarah as a single tear rolled down her cheek. “Is she with Jesus?” It was all she could manage to ask.
“Yes sweet heart, she went home.”
Sarah began to weep as Scott carefully wrapped his arms around her. “They found you leaning against her in the car. You were both holding hands so tightly they had trouble separating you.” He cried with his wife, grieving over the loss of their friend, but also because he knew how hard this would be for Sarah. He would give anything to take her pain away. “I knew the weather was supposed to be bad yesterday. If only I hadn’t let her go shopping.” He thought. “Then maybe they would have both stayed home.”
The doctor hurried into the room and quickly examined Sarah’s condition. He was full of questions for her now that she was awake, but only the most important ones could be asked now. The others could wait until Sarah was more rested. He left the couple holding each other, knowing he had done all he could for them now. The rest was only something time would heal.
The next several days were very hard for Sarah. She was released from the hospital the morning of the funeral. It was the worst day she ever remembered having.
“Tonya is in a place more wonderful than we could ever imagine.” Their pastor’s words played over in her head as she lay awake in bed that night. Scott had finally fallen asleep beside her. He had held her until he thought she had cried herself to sleep. Sarah turned her head slightly and watched the even rise and fall of his chest as a new wave of tears assaulted her. She wept silently, trying hard not to wake her husband. She tried to envision heaven and what it must be like. She tried to remember everything she had ever heard on the subject but at the moment she couldn’t remember all the glorious things she had heard or read. All she could think about was this deep sense of loss and emptiness in her heart that she could not describe. Nausea over whelmed her and she got up and hurried to the bathroom. She sat there in the floor for a long time wondering why God had taken her friend. Why did He take her and leave me behind? Sarah didn’t know how long she had sat there when she felt strong arms lift her up and she nuzzled her face into Scott’s chest. “Why?”
He carried her back to bed and held her close. “I don’t know my love. I don’t know.”
The rest of the night Sarah lay awake in her husband’s arms, remembering the last conversation she had with Tonya. If it weren’t for Tonya where would she be today? The last five years began to play out in her mind as she remembered all the Lord had brought her through. She was going to miss her friend so very much.
Over the next several months, as Sarah’s body healed she slowly began to deal with Tonya’s death. She still didn’t know why she had survived but there had to be a reason she was left behind. She wanted to find her purpose and do the best she could to fulfill that purpose. She wanted to help others like Tonya had helped her. Sarah smiled to herself as she thought of ideas. She felt hope for the first time since before the accident. She could do this. She could make it after all. Through helping others she could heal and keep Tonya’s memory alive at the same time.
“Thank you Lord, for giving me hope again.”
Sarah couldn’t wait for Scott to get home that night. She had so much to tell him. She knew he had been worried about her, but finally she was ready to move forward.