It has become apparent that my sister Christine had similar back problems to those endured by another sister, Jeannie. Recognizing the similarity of their injuries has caused me to recall a memory of an event which happened to my family more than 50 years ago.
In the early summer of 1963, just after I had graduated from high school, my mom, three sisters and I were involved in an automobile accident. We lived in a suburban area north of Baltimore, Maryland. We were traveling to a department store named Corvette’s to shop for bathing suits. The travel to the store included driving on the Baltimore Beltway, a four lane highway that had been completed some time before. There was road construction on the highway, and at one point in our travel, the traffic was brought to a complete stop as we waited for the construction crews to clear whatever was in or near the roadway. The traffic had been “stop and go” until that time, with the moving traffic going at a reduced speed due to the construction. There was a line of stopped traffic in front of us, with no one at that time behind us. An 18 wheeler gravel truck came up suddenly behind us, the driver unaware that the traffic in front of him had stopped.
Mom was driving a car that we all loved – a 1960 white Chrysler station wagon, a behemoth if ever there was one. It was a very large, heavy car with fins on the rear fenders – my sisters and I called them wings. When the truck driver realized that the traffic had stopped, he frantically applied his brakes, but not soon enough to avoid hitting our car. Miraculously, we didn’t hit the car in front of us, but rather were thrown off the right side of the road, coming to rest 90 feet over a slight embankment. There were workmen and road equipment on the side of the road. We didn’t hit anyone or anything as we flew off the road to safety. The car had to be discarded, as it was beyond repair due to the accident.
In 1963 seat belts were only required in the front seat. I was in the front seat with mom – belted in. Jean and Christine were seated in the middle seat. Jill was seated in the rear facing back seat. Jean and Christine were thrown forward and hit the seat in front of them. The rear seat was broken apart, Jill being thrown around the back of the station wagon by the force of the impact. EMS had a difficult time extricating Jill from the rear compartment as the back of the car was demolished. All of us required a neck brace for a few days. Jill was hospitalized overnight due to some blood in her urine, but was then released.
After the diagnosis of Christine’s back problems a few weeks ago – she has suffered for many years, especially with neck problems – it occurred to me that both Jean and Christine had been injured more seriously than had been realized in the automobile accident so many years before. Perhaps the force of their bodies hitting the front seat began a process of deterioration in their spine which resulted years later in disc problems. Jean had thought her back problems were due to her career as a nurse, often lifting patients to move them. There was no similar experience in Christine’s life, just the daily work in an office, the required cleaning of her home and carrying her child when he was young.
Reflecting on the miracles surrounding the car accident, it has occurred to me that all of our guardian angels were hard at work that day. I had often wondered how mom was able to turn the wheel of the car after we were hit to avoid hitting the car just a few feet in front of us, and then stop the car once we were safely out of the way. Now I believe that our family’s five guardian angels lifted our car, threw it down an embankment – careful to not overturn it, and then safely stopped the car. Yes, we were all hurt, perhaps more than was realized so long ago. We might have all lost our lives, but we didn’t. Our dad might have lost his whole family that day, but he didn’t. We survived to live out the lives our merciful God had ordained for all of us.
Looking differently at all that happened to us on that sunny summer day, I want to live today in great gratitude for the protection that our heavenly Father offers to each one of us – a strong and faithful guardian, who is always alert to danger, always reminding us of the right path to choose, always accompanying us on our journey. Without those strong guardians my child would never have been born, and my life and the life of my family would have ended so long ago.
Angel of God,
My Guardian dear,
To whom God’s love commits me here,
Ever this day be at my side,
To love and guard,
To rule and guide. Amen