Our pastor’s words at the end of the church service struck fear into my heart.
“There is freezing rain out there and it seems to be icy. Please be careful going home, everybody.”
I live in the mountains of northern New England. I am well acquainted with winter but I really have had enough of it.
Driving in snow is bad enough but ice absolutely terrifies me.
Things didn’t look good when my mom and I exited the church and her car was completely encased in ice. Why we didn’t just turn around and go back into the comfy, warm church to wait it out, I’ll never know.
We took a million baby steps to the car and sat there for a good ten minutes until the defroster melted the ice so she could see to drive. She insisted on driving because she was concerned about my blood pressure. I have only had two accidents and they both involved ice. That feeling of having no control over my vehicle was terrifying and it still haunts me.
We started out very slowly and made the decision to take the road that runs along the lake rather than risk the main road where people go much too fast under any conditions.
All was fine until we rounded the corner and the lake came into view. Suddenly, the road was like a skating rink and all control was lost. The car started to spin and slide from one end of the road to the other.
To our horror, we began to hurtle toward the boat launch. Miraculously, we came to a sudden stop right before we would have slid down the boat launch into the lake! We also narrowly missed hitting a parked truck.
It took several minutes until Mom felt okay to put the car into gear and keep going. We did fine on the flat part of the road but trying to get enough traction to get up the fairly steep hill that would lead us toward home was another matter altogether. Her tires spun and we began to slide backward down the hill.
Mom valiantly tried to back the car into a driveway but couldn’t do it. So, she attempted to pull into a driveway across the street, sliding all the way. The car finally came to a stop, half on the sidewalk and half into the driveway.
Our hearts were pounding right through our chests and we tried to catch our breath now that we were stopped and in a relatively safe place.
If you are ever in a crisis situation, you would want my mom there. She remains calm and is the picture of efficiency.
The person you do NOT want with you if you are in a crisis situation is me.
I was shaking. I was crying. I was a mess.
I called my husband (who didn’t feel well enough to attend church this morning) to tell him what had happened. He tried in vain to get me to calm down and finally told me he was going to call the police and report that we were stranded and get back to us.
I just felt so helpless so I started to pray. “Jesus, please take care of us and get us safely home.” We were literally less than five minutes from home but it seemed like miles.
No sooner had I finished that prayer when a man walked (slid) up to our car. He was around 60 years old, had salt and pepper hair, and a wide smile. He explained that his name was Mike and he lived across the street. He had seen our troubles and walked over to see if we were okay.
I couldn’t believe I was meeting the man who I had disparaged for the past 7 years that we have lived here.
You see, he owns a junkyard. There are a lot of No Trespassing signs everywhere as well as a fierce looking German Shepherd standing guard. His house/business is on my path when I walk into town and I have always wondered who lived there, thinking what a shame it was that this eyesore is located in such an otherwise pretty area.
And now here he was right in front of me, nice as can be.
Seemingly unbothered by the freezing rain, he stayed with us for the next hour, chatting amicably, spinning lots of stories, and doing a wonderful job of taking our minds off our situation.
He shared his life story which has been filled with hardships; yet he remains a cheerful person who is willing to lend a helping hand to those in need when he can. He is a dyed-in-the-wool Yankee, fiercely independent and occasionally some salty language slipped through.
As I listened to his stories, I could feel my heart rate return to normal and my breathing came much easier.
At one point, he suggested that Mom pull up further into the driveway so any other out-of-control cars would not hit us.
Not even 15 minutes later, a truck that was coming down the road too fast lost control on the ice, hit the back of a car just a little further up the road that had gone into a ditch, and slid crazily all the way down the hill finally coming to a stop right where our car had been!
He would have certainly hit us and since he was traveling at a pretty good speed, I shudder to think of the damage that we were spared.
Eventually, a salt truck came by to treat the roads. Mike informed us that he thought we would be okay to take one more run at the hill.
Then he saw the looks on both of our faces.
“Would you feel better if I drove the car up the hill for you?” He asked. “My nephew just came over and he can follow us and give me a ride back down the hill.”
Mom gratefully accepted his invitation and he helped her across the car and settled her into the passenger side with utmost gentleness.
He drove with ease to the top of the hill and took another look at my mom, who was white as a sheet by this time at the thought of getting back behind the wheel.
“You know what? I’m just going to go ahead and drive you lovely ladies home,” he announced, motioning his nephew to follow him. We only lived another half a mile away. He delivered us right to our front door.
“What can we do to thank you?” I asked as I shook his hand.
“Not a thing!” he waved his hand dismissively. “Just say a prayer for me the next time you go to church. I was happy to help.”
He looked at my mom and smiled. “She reminds me of my mama, God rest her soul, and I would have wanted someone to help my mama if she was in this same situation.”
With a cheerful wave goodbye, he climbed into his nephew’s SUV and off they went.
Jesus answered our prayers by sending us an unlikely angel in the form of Mike.
Sometimes He answers our prayers in the strangest of ways, but they are nonetheless beautiful.
We will be forever grateful.