A chill crawled up my spine as an eerie wind rustled the leaves of the willow trees. The moonlight reflected on the lake and cast a vaporous glow on Lyle’s face. The long willow branches seemed ready to pounce on us as the wind picked up.
“Looks like we might get a storm,” said Lyle.
Clouds seemed to come out of nowhere, their wispy fingers covering the moon.
“Can’t hardly see now, can you grab my flashlight out of the front of my truck darlin’?,” Lyle asked.
“Sure.” I retrieved the light and handed it to his rough, cracked hand.
I wasn’t sure if I could trust Lyle. He was kind enough to stop and help me with a blown-out tire. I didn’t know him personally, but I knew Lyle Skeelman owned a hardware shop and he seemed like a godsend to have stopped on the lonely country road that night.
Lyle looked up at the sky, “I think we’re in for a downpour.”
The wind was picking up and a steady, pelting rain began to fall, but Lyle continued his work. Apprehension gripped my heart, which was beating faster.
“Shouldn’t be but a few more minutes, sweetheart,” Lyle shouted over the increasingly noisy wind.
In the distance, I heard a whistling noise that grew louder and louder. I turned to see in the distance a dark, black cloud twist out of its horizontal position into a frightening vertical pose.
“A tornado!” I shouted to Lyle. “We need to take cover!”
Lyle jumped up, shining his flashlight around looking for shelter. Grabbing my hand, Lyle pulled me towards the lakeside of the road.
“Over here!” Lyle pointed to the old bridge underpass. Underneath was a hole large enough for us to squeeze into.
I felt like my heart would pound out of my chest, the irreverent funnel pressing ever closer towards us. Leaves, branches, and other debris hurled by our heads, as Lyle pushed me forward and thrust me down into the hole.
“Cover your head!” he commanded.
I complied as he covered me with his body, bracing himself between the top of the hole and steel poles that stuck out from underneath the bridge. By now the whistle had turned into the sound of a roaring freight train. The wind was taking our breath away, debris still scratching at our skin.
“Hold on sweetheart. Everything’s going to be alright.” Lyle’s voice was barely audible.
Blood dripped onto my arm. Lyle was getting hammered by the debris. His body began to lift as the tornado passed just a few feet away from us. Lyle held on with all his might to the steel poles, but it wasn’t enough. I burrowed further into the hole as I felt the mighty power of the unforgiving wind. Then, instantly, Lyle’s body was torn from the hole.
I wanted to scream, but the fierce gusts prevented any sound from escaping my lips. My heart groaned in agony. My body trembled mercilessly as I understood Lyle’s fate. The heartless twister continued its path of death and destruction, leaving me in the hole, my heart more shattered and broken than my body. A peculiar quiet came over the place where just moments ago, my biggest problem was a blown-out tire. I was left with the realization that a man I barely knew had just sacrificed his life for me. Tears raced down my face and wouldn’t seem to stop.
Three days later, at Lyle’s funeral, I was privileged to speak about this selfless man. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do, but I knew I owed it to Lyle to honor him in this way. I got up to speak in front of his wife and three grown children, who sat somberly on the front row.
Heart pounding and hands shaking, I told how Lyle had stopped to help me, and the events that transpired.
“I’m so grateful for the great love that Lyle showed me. And after talking to Lyle’s wife, I know that Lyle would want you all to know that Jesus gave His life for you, so you could have eternal life. Lyle saved my physical life, but only Jesus can give each of us eternal life. John 15:13 says, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ This is what Lyle did for me and to such a greater measure; it’s what Jesus did for you.”
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