The Best Christmas Gift I Ever Got
by Joe Pagano
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There are times in one’s life when something so miraculous happens that it defies ordinary explanation. We all hear of amazing stories—of miraculous recoveries from disease or illness, of daring escapes, of angelic interventions—but when it happens to you, you don’t know quite how to explain it other than to say thank you God, and praise be Yours. Something like this happened to me today, and I describe it as the best Christmas gift I ever got. Here I relate the details.
There are a thousand reasons why I shouldn’t have been where I was, when I was, on the morning of December 19, 2006, but I guess I had to be there so that God could show me that He does exist and that His ways are inscrutable. Just recently I was asking Him a million whys as to the present: why was my life going the way it was? Why was I having the problems that I was? Why were the finances the way they were? and a million whys as to the past: why did my father have to have the disease he did and die prematurely, just when we were starting to become close? Why did my mother have to be manic-depressive? Why did I drop out of medical school after sacrificing so much? Why did my life take all the ugly turns it had? Why, why, why? The returning echo of nothingness after having submitted these questions was deafening and utterly disheartening. To say my faith was teetering and my belief in God wavering would be somewhat of an understatement. As much as I desperately wanted to hold on, I had little gas left in my faith fuel tank to sustain me. I was fighting but I was losing the battle.
Up to this day, the past few weeks had been the most introspective of my life. I decided that I would hold on to the belief that life was good and that I would come through these trials despite outward appearances of hopelessness. Regardless of the circumstances, the problems, the heartaches, I would deliberately start the morning by thanking God for everything and expect good to come out of each day. I would refocus my thinking, remake my attitude, redirect my actions. During my recent dark periods I asked God for a sign, something that would show His existence to me, something that would validate my purpose here. I had no right to do so. But God in His infinite goodness knows when we are at our breaking point and when we need something to keep us intact. Such was the case on this bright clear morning.
My request for a sign from God having been forgotten, I started my day somewhat differently from normal. I was planning on going to Brick, New Jersey to meet with two prospective clients. What is interesting is that I was supposed to meet with them last week but because of scheduling, this was impossible. Originally, I planned on leaving my house at 10:00AM but then suddenly decided to leave at 8:30AM. As I left to go toward south Jersey, I suddenly decided to go and deposit my son’s check at the Commerce Bank, which was in the completely opposite direction. After I did this, I headed on Route 9 South toward Brick, New Jersey. I called my mother to tell her that because I left so early and didn’t have an appointment until 11:00AM that I would stop by for a short visit. Thus, I continued on my way.
While driving, I decided to call another client to see when I could come by and get a contract signed. I was on the cell phone with my hands-free device and chatting casually. As I looked ahead, I saw that the light was changing to red, so I started to prepare to stop, all the while speaking with this prospective client. My Honda Civic was in the far left lane; there was a cement wall divider separating the north and south-bound lanes, and there were cars to my right.
The light changed red and I was easing to a stop, traveling no more than 5-10 mph. My hands were not even on the steering wheel, and I was still engaged in my conversation. My eyes were roaming from the passenger seat, where I had some papers, to what was in front of me, to what was on the right side of me. Never did I look behind me.
Now here is where the story gets interesting. As I was coming to a complete stop, something compelled me to look in my rearview mirror. Almost out of nowhere I see this huge gas tanker truck barreling toward me at approximately 50 mph. At the time I saw the truck, I estimated its distance to be no more than 50-70 feet behind me. In an instant, I realized that for whatever reason, the driver wasn’t stopping. Now here is what is so bizarre. Rather than realize the import of what was about to happen, I continued conversing without missing a beat. My arms which were at my side, slowly moved toward the steering wheel, as if compelled my some force, and I nonchalantly moved my car over a little to the right lane. The calm manner in which I did this was beyond explanation. For all that anyone knew, I had seen a bicycle coming toward me, and because I was perturbed at the proximity of the bicycle rider to my car, I decided to get out of the way. Well this was much more than a bicycle! With the utmost composure, I got over just enough so that the truck could pass me without any collision.
Needless to say, the truck driver blew the light at a tremendous speed. At that moment, I started to realize what had happened and started saying, “Oh, my God. Oh, my God.” I mentioned to the prospective client on the phone that I almost got killed, but I was still talking as though nothing really happened. I was beyond calm. It was surreal how calm I was. I told my client I needed to go because I had to find out what this truck driver was thinking. I started to drive and stopped at the next light. I motioned to the driver of the truck that he nearly killed me. He pointed to the shoulder and indicated that I should go there. We both pulled over.
His name was Eddie. As he approached me on the shoulder, his hands were trembling and he was white as a ghost. He looked at me with incredulity, with wonderment as to how I could still be alive. He relayed to me that his brakes failed and that he was standing up behind the wheel, with his feet stomped on the brake pedal, which was all the way to the floor. He was praying that the truck would stop. Because he knew he would have killed me, had his truck collided with me, to avoid me, he was planning on crashing the truck into the cement divider. He would do everything then to keep the tanker from turning over. He was carrying a full load of fuel—an explosion would have been disastrous.
I took his hand in mine. I said that we should praise God and give Him all the credit. He just nodded. I summoned him to come sit in my car. I showed him the bible that was on the passenger seat. I mentioned how I read Psalm 27 earlier that morning. I showed him the opening of this psalm: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” We talked a little more. I shared with him how I asked God recently for a sign of His providential care. I mentioned some personal trials that I was going through. He mentioned some of his. Our problems were nearly identical! We both marveled. We exchanged numbers. I promised him that I would make this story known to as many people as possible as a testimony of God’s love for us.
When I consider this occurrence, the scenario takes on even more bizarre proportions. For instance, the options that were left for me, in that particular situation, were horrendous. Had the driver crashed the truck into the divider, he would have probably fish-tailed, sending the tanker on top of my car. Had I not gotten out of the way and he barreled into me, my Civic would have been crushed, and in all likelihood his truck would have grinded me into the ground. Either way, my choices were very limited. But God had other plans.
In an instant, I was no longer in his way, and miraculously he was able to blow the light without any other cars coming across the intersection. Had he collided with cars in the intersection, an explosion was a very real possibility; I most certainly would have been killed because of my proximity to the blast. But how was I an obstruction one second, and not the next? As I mentioned, there were many reasons why I should not have been at that exact spot at that exact time. Why I looked up at that precise instant, I have no idea. How my hands got on that steering wheel and moved the car over in just the right amount of time, defies any explanation I can provide.
After the incident, I was no longer calm. My hands started to quiver as I contemplated what just occurred. Tears of joy rushed down my cheeks as I realized that what had just happened was a miracle from God. Rather than my family spending Christmas in a funeral parlor—at my funeral!—we would be spending it together. All day long, I thought about the incident. All day long, the conclusion I drew was inescapable: God saved me this day.
And as though this is not enough, the story, from a mathematical and scientific point of view, gets even more inexplicable. If you remember, when I looked up into my rearview mirror, the truck could not have been more than 50-70 feet behind me. The speed limit on Route 9 is 50 mph, and the truck driver was going at least that fast. At 50 mph, the distance covered in feet per second is 73.3. My car was hardly moving and my hands were not on the steering wheel. I had less than a second to get my hands on that wheel and maneuver my car into the center lane. Remember, I was still talking casually on the phone during this whole incident. When I reviewed this scene, I realized that the actions I performed should have taken at least two to three seconds, not less than one. How can I explain this? I truly believe that time warped for me and that I was momentarily in a different dimension where time dilated. This explains why the driver’s reaction was one of disbelief. He could not understand how I could have gotten out of his way so quickly and effortlessly.
As I continued on to my mother’s house, I called her and told her to light a candle. I would explain everything when I got there. Suddenly on the radio station I was listening to was playing my favorite Christian song. I started singing along with it as tears rolled down my cheeks. The feeling of joy that surged through my body at that moment was ineffable. What could I say? I just experienced a miracle.
Many might read this and think that under the circumstances my recollection of the events is somewhat distorted or prejudiced. This is a fair assumption. However, I can tell you that I know what I experienced and the facts all add up to one inescapable conclusion: God saved me this day and for that I am very grateful. And what I am grateful for is not just my life, but for the knowledge that God does truly exist. This is truly a priceless gift, one searched out throughout the ages but only available to a select few. For this, I am truly grateful. Indeed, this is the best Christmas gift I ever got.
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Okay, can I breath now? Wow! How's that for academia? How do you critique an article like this one? Wisdom says "you don't", you just offer Him praise! The long parapgraphs, for me, are usually a "turn off" and the instances of grammar were initially my focus; but as I read on I forgot I was critiquing anything at all. There I was, sitting next to you, looking over my shoulder to see why you were moving over. I panicked. While you shared with the truck driver I sat in the back seat, tremors, the aftershocks of an emotional earthquake rolled over my heart and mind.....As far as the writing aspect? The story is so intense, I honestly believe that to change any thing would be the same as Uzziah touching the cart, supposing he would help God out. I wouldn't change a thing.
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