*Trigger Warning: Grief, Loss
This may seem like an unusual Christmas message. Yet, this is a story of hope. It’s a story of help in the midst of a storm. It’s a story to ease loneliness during a time that can be lonely for so many.
It was the first snowfall of the winter and the day after I returned from a holiday in Disney World with my husband and two young daughters. It is a day I will never forget!
We had booked a Disney “land and sea” vacation package. Three days at a Disney resort followed by five days on a Disney cruise ship.
To pick us up from the airport when we arrived in Orlando – and drive us to the hotel, cruise ship, and back to the airport hotel at the end of our vacation – we hired a limo driver that we had used on previous Orlando holidays. We loved this driver. He has a smile that lights up the room and a sense of humour larger than life. Now that is a fun ride!
When he picked us up from the airport to drive us to the hotel, he greeted us with that laugh and smile that we had become so fond of over the years. He had carefully selected a movie to play in the back of the limo that he thought the girls would like. It was Cars (looking back now, I can see how appropriate that movie was) and he was right; our girls did like that movie.
After the land part of the vacation was finished, he picked us up again to drive us to the cruise ship. Again, he took care of our family with that service and positive attitude we could always count on receiving from him.
Once our fabulous time on the cruise was over, we disembarked with our luggage, and waited on the sidewalk for our joyous driver. I spotted him standing across the street, looking back and forth for oncoming traffic before making his way over to help us with our bags.
Right away I could feel in my spirit, his joy was gone. Something had changed. He said his hellos and started helping us with our belongings. He was definitely “off,” not himself at all. I thought, That’s okay. Everyone has bad days.
We loaded into the limo to make our way to the airport hotel—our final night in Orlando before flying back to Toronto. Just before arriving at the hotel, our driver passed a framed photo through the little window which separates the passengers’ side of the limo from the driver’s side. My daughter Brianna was sitting closest to the window; he handed it to her and said, “Could you please give this to your mom.”
Brianna handed me the picture and in it was an attractive young man with beautiful black hair and a beaming smile much like our driver’s smile. The young man in the picture looked to be in his early 20’s and I figured he was the driver’s son. I asked, “Who is this good-looking young guy?”
He replied, “He’s my son. I lost him two days ago.”
He swallowed back his pain and continued, “He’s always been a good kid. He never drank. He never did drugs. But he made a bad choice. He got a new car recently. He raced another car down a street in Miami. He lost control of the car, it wrapped around a tree, and he died.”
My heart sank. I said, “I’m so sorry.” I continued to say, “You didn’t have to pick us up. We could have found another ride.”
He said, “You’re the only family I’m picking up. I cancelled everyone else. Right after I drop you off, I’m going to Miami to make funeral arrangements.”
He pulled up to our hotel and got out to unload the luggage. We hugged on the sidewalk for what seemed a very long time. My heart was breaking for him. That night, I felt deep sadness for his loss. I had these nagging questions in my mind too, Why did he pick us up? Why did he pick up only our family and cancel everyone else? Why didn’t he cancel our pickup too?
Surely there had to be a reason?
Two days later, my family was home and settling in to post-vacation mode. The bags were unpacked, laundry was being done, and I even went to the hairdresser. I was still thinking about the man and his son. Still feeling for his loss. There was still that nagging question at the forefront of my mind, I wondered, Why did he pick us up that day?
I exited the salon to discover more than 5 cm of fresh snow blanketing my two-month-old car and the road, too. I cleared off the car and began to make my way home. I was driving slowly. Other vehicles were lining up behind me because of my speed. I was imagining their frustration. I could almost hear them saying, “C’mon lady! It’s just a little snow!” But I continued driving at that pace which gave me that feeling of safety.
I was approaching an intersection to which I had the right of way. The drivers on the intersecting road had stop signs. But what the drivers approaching the stop sign on the road to the left didn’t know was that the road under the snow was covered in a sheet of ice. It was an accident waiting to happen. However, I didn’t realize how soon that was actually going to occur. They applied the brakes, and their vehicle began to slide at full speed through the intersection. They were out of control!
My brakes were no match for the ice either. As our vehicles sped towards each other, time slowed down—like being in slow motion.
Have you seen the movie The Matrix? Time slows down to a point where the characters can see speeding bullets enough to dodge them.
If you were witnessing this accident, it would have seemed to happen in a snap. In an instant. But for me, time had really slowed down.
As the other car sped towards me, I thought:
This isn’t going to be good.
Is this why our limo driver picked us up?
Am I going to die now?
Time slowed down so much, I contemplated whether I could undo my seatbelt and get in the back seat for protection. I thought,
I don’t want to die.
Then I heard a voice. The voice seemed like my own voice, but it was coming from the back of my mind. It asked one question . . . “Why?”
I want to be there for my kids.
Crunch. The other vehicle smashed into mine.
I want to write more books.
Crunch. I could see the metal of my car getting pushed in toward my body.
I want to speak to more audiences and help more people.
I’ve never been to England.
A Crashing Halt
BAM! On that last one, the airbags deployed. My car had been pushed off the road and into a field. The engine was still going. There was smoke. I thought the car might explode and I wanted to get out, but I thought my legs were broken. They hurt and the front of the car was pushed in on me.
I looked out the driver’s side window and I saw a blonde-haired guy standing right beside me. It struck me that he wasn’t wearing winter attire and it was really cold outside. He looked like a healthy surfer type of guy dressed for a day at the beach. He didn’t speak to me. But the way he looked into my eyes felt like love and concern. It’s hard to explain. But I felt he cared very much about me and was asking me – with just his expression – “Are you okay?”
I said, “Can you help me get out of the car?” I turned away from his face and looked down at my legs.
When I looked back up, he was gone.
My heart was racing with fear that my car would explode. I wanted to get out.
I heard a woman yelling, “Get away from her car. She doesn’t want to talk to you!”
She was talking to the driver of the car that hit me. He was walking toward my car to see if I was okay. I was thinking, It’s okay. I’m not mad. It was an accident. I just want out of this car—now.
The woman who had yelled had witnessed the entire accident. She ran over to my window. “Are you alright?”
“I need to get out of the car,” I replied.
She helped me out and walked me to her vehicle. I was sitting beside her in the passenger’s seat. She called 911 and then began asking me questions. “What’s your name? Do you have any kids? How old are they? What are their names?”
I knew she was trying to keep me awake and alert by asking me these questions. I answered to be polite but all I really wanted to do was to close my eyes and have a little sleep. I was suddenly so tired.
While she was asking me these questions, I see this surfer dude again standing outside of her car on my side. He was looking at me with that same love and concern I had experienced from him moments earlier.
I thought, This guy is so nice. He must be her boyfriend and he’s letting me sit here in his seat. It’s freezing outside. He doesn’t even have a coat on. He must be so cold.
She continues asking questions until the ambulance arrives and they take me to the hospital. I was completely fine. My car was totalled but I didn’t have any major injuries. My legs were bruised but that was from the plastic that comes flying off when the airbags deploy. My nose was swollen from the airbag popping me in the face. My shoulder hurt from where the seat belt grabbed my body to keep me safely in place, but that was all. It was a miracle! The doctor gave me a clean bill of health and I was sent home.
I was still thinking about that surfer dude who didn’t say a word but conveyed so much love directly into my spirit.
Who Was That Man?
The next day, my phone rings. It was the principal of my daughters’ school. He asked, “Denise, are you okay? I heard you were in a car accident.”
I answered, “How did you know? I haven’t told anyone yet.”
He said, “My daughter was the one who helped you at the accident. She was just coming home from a first aid course at the college. When she got home last night, she told us all about the accident and described how she asked this woman question after question and told us her answers. I said to her, ‘I think you’re talking about Lindsay and Brianna’s mom Denise Marek!”
I said, “I want to thank your daughter and her boyfriend. What’s her boyfriend’s name?”
He said, “Denise, she was alone.” But in hindsight, I know now that we were both far from alone on that day.
It turns out, there was no blonde-haired, surfer dude at the accident scene. The occupants of the other vehicle were bundled up in winter clothing. The girl who helped me was female. No-one else stopped.
I was the only one who saw him.
Whom do you think I saw? I know what I believe I saw. As you read this story, whom or what do you think that blonde man with love and compassion in his eyes was?
For me, I believe it was an angel.
Psalms 91:11 says, “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.”
This means God promises that His angels will watch over individuals and the situations they find themselves in. His angels have a purpose: to guard His children.
I know what I saw, and I know what I felt that day . . . and it was a miracle. A real-life, God-given miracle—to me.
You’re Never Alone
This accident happened years ago. I’m sharing this story with you now because this Christmas, in these pandemic times, many of us will be apart from people we love – and it’s hard. Some from loss of life and others from physical distancing. Some will feel lonely. Loneliness can be debilitating. It can suck the joy and hope from your life.
If you know the feeling of loneliness, you are not alone. You are not alone in feeling that way and you are not alone, now, as you read this.
There is a crisis of depression and isolation happening worldwide. When you feel alone, remember the One who is standing next to you. No matter how things appear . . . you are never alone. He is always with you.
That day, God sent me an angel. While I was trapped in that twisted wreck of a car, He wanted me to know that I wasn’t alone—He was by my side, and He is by your side, now. Think of that the next time loneliness knocks at your door.