Quickly, as if she couldn’t control herself, Rhonda limped to the burning SUV flipped on its side, and covered her face with both arms as a sudden burst of hot flames licked her skin. She reared back for a moment and then continued, jumping up into the broken side window. The screaming toddler in the car seat provoked her surprising behaviour--that, and the fact that the gnawing pain in her gut was so intense.
Sorrow pursed her trembling lips as she thought of the reality she once knew, but now couldn’t even recognize. Tears streamed down her dirty face, washing disturbing pathways down her cheeks that resembled her own melancholy life and the dark places it had taken her against her will.
The toddler cried again, but this time it was only faint. She hoped she could find him in time. The flames in the engine were growing and the gas tank was full. It was only a matter of time before they both blew. Maybe that would be better anyway.
“I will restore you my child.”
Suddenly, Rhonda noticed a group of people peering in the broken windows. “Hurry lady,” one of them shouted while a larger man shuttled around the front of the vehicle yelling, “The baby’s up front!”
That was her cue. She flopped through the tattered vehicle with its ripped seats and dented in doors from the rollover, but could barely manoeuvre herself over the front seats with the roof crumpled the way it was.
Onlookers cheered as she squirmed her way to the driver’s side, reaching the toddler still buckled in his car seat wedged between the door and the floor. No sound came from the lifeless body.
Rhonda quickly unbuckled him, remembering her sickening plan now. She swallowed hard, pulling the child to her chest, hoping he was still alive, yet ashamed that those negative thoughts still lingered.
As the others pulled her from the smoking vehicle, helping her and the child to safety, the SUV erupted into a catastrophic combination of shrapnel and flames. The eyes of those watching grew wide with wonder as they observed the anticipated phenomenon, patting Rhonda on the back as the child opened his eyes and started to cry.
“Well lady,” one of them smiled, “How does it feel to be a hero? You saved the life of this precious little boy.”
Rhonda burst with tears and couldn’t say a word. If they only knew.
“It’s okay dear,” a woman said as she consoled her. “You’re braver than I am, that’s for sure. I saw you running after the vehicle just after it rolled down the hill. You’re a hero if I ever saw one. This boy’s lucky you were there. I didn’t even see a driver.”
As the sirens approached, Rhonda kissed the little boy, tasting salty tears on his face. “Are you okay sweetie?” she asked him as she wiped his bloody nose with the front of his shirt. His incessant bawling made his words sound like nonsense to her, but for some reason, it was reassuring nonetheless.
“This lady is a hero!” the woman smiled, pushing Rhonda and the boy in front of the police officers as they came near. She trembled as she stood there with him on her hip, jiggling him around, repositioning him for a better stance, determined not to open her mouth at all.
“We need to take your statement ma’am--and take a look at the boy,” the police officer told her.
“No,” she shook her head, trying to walk away. But the officers pursued her, ripping the child from her breast.”
“Mama! Mama!” the toddler bawled with uplifted arms.
Rhonda gasped, realizing he had called her by name. Shocked, she turned around as the officers grabbed her arm. “Are you the mother?”
“Yes,” she laughed, trying to make it sound like a joke but failing desperately. “I tried to kill my own child and I don’t even know why. God forgive me!”
“And I will restore to you the years that the locusts hath eaten…” Joel 2:25 KJV
The days and months that followed brought Rhonda through a treatment program for Post-Partum Depression. She went to jail for pushing her vehicle down a hill while her son was still inside –losing her freedom in one world, but regaining it in another after receiving Christ’s redeeming love.
If you suffer with mental illness, know that God understands your pain!
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