I never saw it coming.
I were driving to Jeff’s worksite with our infant daughter, Carly, to spend his lunch break together.
“We’re almost there, sweetie! See the little doggie playing over there? That’s where your papa is building the house!”
“Pa-Pa, ho-ws?”, baby Carly gurgled.
I could see Jeff’s Michigan sweatshirt up on the roof as he worked. Autumn’s kaleidoscope of colors spun off the tall oak tree above his head, leaves catching in his hood and dancing in the breeze before dropping onto the new shingles. Brandishing a hammer over his head in greeting, I waved back, slowing our car to a stop when--
CRASH! My neck whip-lashed from the impact and I watched dazedly as my husband’s face took on an expression of pure terror.
And after that, a deep bottomless silence, followed by whispers of unfamiliar noises with ripples of light and sound like an ocean’s tide ebbing and flowing. The shore was my brain being beat upon by waves of memories, sounds and pain too intense to be real.
Weeks passed while I clung tenaciously to each artificial breath’s reward, waiting . . . waiting . . .waiting.
My senses slowly awoke, a day at a time. Muted voices, machines beeping, wafts of floral scents, pinpricks, soft singing and praying—and pain, always the pain. Gradually, I began to revive. Glimpses of light and louder voices crept their way into the cobwebbed recesses of my mind. Until, one day, my eyes opened to let it all in:
“Wake up, Jules, wake up!”
(‘Carly’s crying for her bottle,’) I thought groggily.
“Her eyes fluttered! I know it!”
(‘Why is Pastor Chuck in our bedroom?’) I wondered.
“Look, everyone, she’s coming to!”
“Praise the Lord,” I heard another shout. And then, I heard a chorus of voices weeping and giving thanks.
(‘I must be at church,’) I thought, struggling to make sense of it all.
“Quiet! Gently, everyone! Remember what the doctor said,” I heard someone say.
Puzzled, I caught a whiff of Mrs. Green’s famous coffeecake and my eyes fluttered open to an astounding scene. All around me were shining faces of my loved ones, smiling at ME and hugging each other. Flowers, cards and balloons graced every surface of the room.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
Jeff, with unusually close-shaven hair and strangely pink face, took both my bandaged hands into his swathed ones while the others joined hands in silent prayer.
“Julie, honey, you were in an accident. Our friends have been here in the hospital with you ever since, praying for you!”
I felt overwhelming love personified all around me, as a doctor entered the room, shooing everyone but my husband outside.
“Bye, Julie!” “We’ll be back tomorrow!” “Hang in there!” “We love you!” Get better!” “I’ll bring more coffeecake!”
“Well, young lady! Let’s see how you’re doing,” the doctor said as he took my pulse and checked me over. And that’s when I became aware of all the bandages on my body.
“Jeff, where’s Carly?”
Yet another pinprick and I felt myself drifting away again.
“Look, Jeff, we’ve got to keep her partially sedated to assist her body handling the trauma. She’s had enough excitement now. She’ll sleep the rest of the night. Why don’t you go back to your friends’ evening chapel vigil?”
I found out later that Jeff and the others joined hands together then, praying for God’s touch upon me and for him to find the words he needed to inform me about the details of the past few months.
It seems that on that fatal day (which was as yesterday to me), a truck driven by an 18-yr.-old new driver had careened into the back of our car, causing the gas tank to explode into flames. Carly, in the back infant seat, was killed, the back end of the car being engulfed. Jeff still has scars from the burns on his arms, hands, and head from pulling me out of the front seat. I was burned over 80% of my upper body and I continue to have reconstructive surgeries and physical therapy. The sorrow we both have over the loss of Carly is only something another bereaved parent can fathom.
But, through it all, our fellow Christian friends have been our tower of strength, upholding, encouraging, and helping us in many practical ways. The love of Jesus shines through their faces, their hands, their feet and their hearts, and for this we are truly blessed!
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