“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they’ll be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:7&8
I was uncomfortable seeing Kelly leave to go back to school after Easter break. It wasn’t just that it was starting to snow. Snow wasn’t unusual for early spring in Michigan. Kelly was upset about something, and I was concerned the stress would cause her to be distracted. But she was eighteen, and it was not my call to make.
“Drive carefully,” we said, hugging her.
“I will,” she promised.
Kelly’s little car, “Phoebe” was in the shop, so she was borrowing our minivan. Along with her suitcase, she had a very large, old television. Her brother had tried to sell the monstrosity, but since most of the population had discovered flat screen TVs, he hadn’t found anyone willing to haul it away, much less buy it. So we had decided it belonged in the family summer home on the other side of the state.
Meanwhile, Marty’s sister had heard that her niece was heading in that direction, so she asked if Kelly could take her new patio furniture cushions as far as school. Marty and I planned to pick up Phoebe later, drive to the college, trade vehicles with Kelly, and drive the rest of the way to the lake house in the minivan. So over, under, and around the other cargo were stuffed about a dozen large cushions.
“Drive carefully,” I repeated, hugging Kelly one more time.
“I will,” she promised again.
So, as my daughter headed out with the loaded minivan, I whispered a prayer and quickly set about my work before I could start missing her.
Less than an hour later, we got the kind of call parents dread; there had been an accident.
On the way to the scene of the wreck, we passed an ambulance going the other way. After confirming that Kelly was in the ambulance, we turned around and made a beeline for the hospital.
Here’s what had happened, as Kelly later told us:
The snow was flying, but visibility was decent, as Kelly followed a slow-moving semi. After a few minutes of what felt like crawling, she pulled out to pass. Hitting an unexpected slick patch, the minivan was suddenly airborne. Kelly cried out one short prayer:
“Jesus, help me!“
The car landed on its side, rolled into the median and came to a stop, upside down. When the dust cleared, Kelly tried to reach for her phone, but it was out of reach, and she was unable to take off the seatbelt.
She continued to cry out to God – or anyone within earshot – unsure how long she would be dangling there and already starting to feel cold.
Less than two minutes later, Kelly heard what seemed like the voice of an angel, saying, “Hi there. I’m a paramedic. This is supposed to be my day off, but I guess I’m on duty today after all.” He told her to cover her head, and when she did he kicked in the already shattered window and helped her out. The next thing she knew, she was being taken to an ambulance, even though she insisted she wasn’t hurt.
When Marty and I got to the hospital, we were told that Kelly was being examined, and we were to wait. When we spotted her small form walking toward us in the hallway, she looked sheepish and upset – was she worried we’d be mad about the minivan?! We hurried to enfold her in a “group hug,” and she started to cry. We asked if she was hurt. She said no … well, except for a headache. Since Kelly had had migraines most of her life, we sighed and thought, What else is new? But this time there was another reason. The TV had been thrown toward the front seat, and from the bump on the back of her head, it had apparently made some kind of contact. But the fact that Kelly was still alive told us that her aunt’s cushions had achieved their purpose and put a thick, insulating layer between her and the projectile that could have killed her.
As we filled out the needed paperwork, Kelly was given some pain reliever for the headache and sent home. I didn’t want to act too glad that I got another day with my “BabyBear,” but I did laugh when she apologized for totaling my minivan. I assured her I really didn’t like the thing anyway and was looking forward to finding something a little cooler, now that my youngest was in college.
All our Facebook friends were treated to pictures of what was left of my car, and no one could believe that Kelly had come out with nothing more than a bump on the head. I was amazed myself, and grateful she had not been driving little Phoebe, which might not have shielded her quite as well. I’ve been quick to tell people about Kelly’s mid-air, 3-word prayer and the “angel” that appeared moments after the crash. Not to mention the extra cargo literally cushioning the blow. I see a strong connection between the prayer and the “lucky” details, and no one will ever convince me otherwise.
When I say a prayer I can sometimes get caught up in composing lengthy, eloquent masterpieces. Am I trying to impress God? If I could fathom just how much He loves me, I would remember that the main reason I pray is to join my heart with His; as I yield to Him, He aligns me with His will. Sometimes short, spontaneous prayers are enough.
Prayers like Please take care of her, Lord.
And “Jesus! Help me!”