The Day I Should Have Died

One great way to tell people about Jesus is to share what God has done in your life.

Today I’d like to share the true story of a day I should have died. It’s also the day I got my “Jacob’s hip.”

The Plan

Ready to sing at the Hanging of the Green (December 1999 or 2000)

I think it was our third year of college (1999) when my roommate and I decided to use a three-day weekend for a surprise visit to her family in Amarillo, TX. The drive was about a four-and-a-half or five hours through western Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle. Only my friend’s dad knew we were coming.

The trip began like any other. We packed my roommate’s car. Her car was newer than my pickup. Plus, hers had cruise control.

It was a beautiful day for a drive. There wasn’t a lot to see in the Texas Panhandle, so I looked closer at the road. There must have been construction not that long ago. The highway was nice and smooth with the lip a good couple of inches above the dirt. There was also a wide strip of dirt between the road and the grass in the wide median. It must have rained recently too as that dirt was dark and moist. Now and then, a tall streetlight dotted the space between east and west traffic. We didn’t need the lights that day. The sun warmed our skin and buoyed our spirits. The strong wind didn’t seem to be a match for my friend’s four-door sedan.

We made good time with my friend at the wheel, talking, laughing, and listening to the radio. Now that we’d passed Shamrock, TX, we had about an hour to go. We couldn’t wait to see the look on her mom’s face when we rang the doorbell!

Surprise!

All of a sudden, the front left wheel got off the road into that soft dirt. My friend reacted quickly, turning to correct the car.

I’m not sure exactly what happened next. We just sat there, peacefully waiting for the car to settle. I remember hearing a crunch, closing my eyes, and turning away from the window.

When the car finally stopped, we tried to get our bearings. My friend turned off the still-playing radio. I had a tiny drop of blood on my finger and a lapful of dirt and broken glass. My roommate handed me the tissue she still held in her hand. Knowing she hated the sight of blood, I immediately put it on my finger, while she put a hand to the side of her head.

Before we got much further, a man raced up to our car.

“Are you ok?!? Are you ok?!?”

“Yes,” we assured him. “What happened?”

Looking at us incredulously, he practically shouted: “YOU FLIPPED THE CAR THREE TIMES!”

The Extent of the Damage

That’s when we took a good look around us.

From the look on the guy’s face, we knew the car must be in bad shape. The back window and those on the passenger side were gone. I was covered in black dirt and small pieces of glass. The same thing covered the back seat and dash. The pencil which had been behind my ear now lay tucked up against the front windshield. My friend had a small rub burn on her inner thigh from the steering wheel and a goose egg about the size of a small child’s fist on the side of her head which hit her window. The blood on my finger had been a tiny nick which had already stopped bleeding.

As I looked outside, I noticed we landed facing the opposite direction. We sat in the middle of the median, about the same distance between each strip of traffic. We were also about the same distance from two light posts planted in the center of the median.

Then we heard the siren of the coming ambulance. Another of the growing crowd around us must have called them.

My assumption that the car showed serious damage was confirmed when the medical personnel immediately brought a gurney to my side of the car and put me in a neck brace. My friend was simply assisted into the ambulance. I let them do their job, but inside I told myself, “This is ridiculous. She’s hurt worse than I am!”

In the Hospital

My friend and I were separated when we reached the hospital. I continued being treated like I’d been in a severe car crash, thinking all the while that the whole thing was overkill.

A common test to asses a person’s mental capacity is to ask them what day it is. Normally, this is a terrible question to ask me. I never know what day it is, and that fact is often a running joke among my friends. This day, however, was Tax Day, April 15. I knew because Dad had been after me until I filed my taxes like a good adult citizen. Every time someone asked me what day it was, I dutifully replied, “It’s Tax Day, April 15.” I said it so often one finally asked me if I was an accountant. I smiled and said no. I just know some accountants.

When the doctor arrived, he asked me all kinds of questions and made sure nothing hurt. I told him what I’d been telling anyone who listed: I’m fine. I just need a shower. Once convinced, the doctor smiled at my longsuffering face and removed the neck brace. It was a while yet before I got that shower, but at least I was more comfortable.

My roommate, on the other hand, was not as well off. For one thing, she had to call her parents to tell them what happened. It wasn’t quite the surprise we anticipated. Her injuries were only those described above, but by the time I saw her again, she was hyperventilating and breathing into a paper bag. That surprised me as she was not in such a shape when I’d left her, even after a ride in the ambulance.

Someone at the hospital had told my young friend (the driver) of an accident which had occurred in the same place one week earlier. That driver was not wearing a seatbelt. He was thrown out of the car, and the car rolled over him! He obviously died. It was a miracle that my friend and I walked away with very little injury. In fact, the doctors told us, we would have been hurt much worse had the airbags gone off. The fact that they did not was another miracle.

Heading Home

We spent the weekend as planned with my roommate’s family, though it was much more subdued than it might have been otherwise.

On the way home, my friend’s dad stopped by the junkyard where the crashed car had been towed. We totaled it. Honestly, the severity of our accident didn’t hit me until I saw that car. My side looked so crushed I was amazed that the metal did not press in on me. I should have died or at least broken some bones. We took pictures of the car, but I couldn’t find them in time to post them with this blog. If I find them later, I’ll edit this post to add them in.

The Story Is Not Over

Needless to say, both my friend and I became passionate about seatbelts and reckless driving for years after our accident. Still, we praised God and thanked Him for our lives. For many years, we called or texted each other on Apr. 15 saying, “Happy anniversary!” It was truly a miraculous day to remember.

I also have one more souvenier that I didn’t notice until months later.

Friends and acquaintances know that I often wipe my eyes. Here is the reason. Ever since this accident, my tear ducts have not worked the same. I am not a scientist or a doctor, but let me explain the best I can.

The human eye is flooded with liquid to keep it from drying out. This liquid drains through your tear ducts which sit in the corner of your eye closest to your nose. (Note my highly technical terms. Ha!) Sometimes, the eye produces more liquid than normal as a defense against certain circumstances. For example, when you are stressed, tired, facing the wind, in smoke, fighting allergies, pain, or even a little emotional, your eyes well up with tears. Normally even these excess tears drain through the tear duct. It’s only when we cry that those tears spill over.

Mine don’t work that way anymore. If there is the slightest extra water in my eyes, it spills out of my eyes like tears.  This happens more in my right eye, the one closest to the shattered window in our accident, but both have been effected. Sometimes I play it off by “scratching my eye” when I’m really wiping away these “extra” tears. Sometimes I just let them roll down my cheeks, especially when both eyes start going. (Don’t judge. I’m simply tired of looking like I’m crying all the time.)

Did you know that when a person cries genuine tears, their nose runs? It’s a great way to spot the difference between acting, real tears, and other irritants.

Why do my eyes cry like this? You may remember me saying that when the car spun out of control, I heard a crunch, closed my eyes, and turned away from the window. I think I closed my eyes on small pieces of glass and/or gravel which caused slight damage to my tear ducts.

A friend recently asked me if I’d seen a doctor about this. No. It’s a little hassle (and I have to be sure I buy only waterproof mascara), but it’s more valuable to me as my “Jacob’s hip.”

Jacob’s Hip

“Jacob’s hip” is a reference to Genesis 32. Here’s a refresher.

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[f] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon. (NIV)

I did not wrestle with God on April 15, but I can relate to Jacob’s comment: “I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” I consider my extra tears as reminders of the day God spared my life. Even when they are annoying, my tears remind me of the many miracles God performed that day. For this reason, I wouldn’t consider having them “fixed.”

Miracle Count

  1. We had our seatbelts on.
  2. The airbags did not deploy. (My friend’s mom said angels must have been sitting on them.)
  3. Total calm and peace (until my friend heard that horrible story).
  4. We did not hit a light pole.
  5. People immediately came to our aid (on an open stretch of road without a lot of traffic).
  6. We had just passed a city large enough to have a hospital.
  7. We totaled the car but walked away with only minor injuries.
  8. We were close enough for my friend’s parents to come to get us.
  9. God gave me a “Jacob’s hip” without affecting my vision in the slightest.

What about you?

How has God worked in your life? What do you have to remind you of it? Who have you told about it recently? Take a moment to remember, praise God, and tell someone else.

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2 Responses to The Day I Should Have Died

  • Pam Heise says:

    Hello Nancy,
    Isn’t it great to look back on our lives and be grateful for the ways God has been with us and has protected us along our life’s journey. Thank you for sharing your remarkable story with us.

    I also wanted to comment on your tear production. There are a variety of different oils and tear producing liquids within the human eyes! Sometimes those tiny little glands can stop producing certain oils which prevent the tears from adhering to the eyeball! You may have heard of Sjogren’s Syndrome or Sicca Syndrome, but in any case it may be worthwhile to check into. It is an autoimmune disorder that will need to be investigated by a doctor, specifically, an Opthomologist for treatment. I suffer from such a disorder and medication is a necessary evil!
    Sjogren’s affects the moisture producing glands in your body. Sometimes it can be isolated or widespread causing numerous problems. Leaking eyes is just one common issue; dry skin, dry mouth are a few more telltale signs.
    I have multiple autoimmune disorders and this is just one of them. It isn’t cureable, but is treatable. I see a rheumatologist every few months for treatment. I don’t mean to scare you; just want you to seek medical advise and treatment if needed. I hope that I am wrong about all of this. I was just encouraged with a passion to speak up. Any thyroid problems or joint pain that accompany your tears?

    Blessings,

    Pam

    • Nancy Ruth says:

      Thank you for the information, Pam. As far as I can tell, I don’t have any other of those symptoms, but I will keep what you shared in mind if I notice anything else. Thanks again and God bless!

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