A family Christmas tradition that I cherish every year is to attend midnight mass. Of course, I can’t recall midnight mass ever actually starting at midnight, but that isn’t the point. I look forward to going to church in the middle of a cold winter night, singing Christmas songs and hearing the Story of Jesus’ birth. I look forward to that as much as any other tradition.
This Christmas Eve we left for church with plenty of time… We get there early to hear Christmas songs and to just enjoy the warmth and love of being at church. My husband drove us all in our truck, and I set up music to plays softly. We were on a small farm-to-market road when I noticed taillights in a field.
“Oh someone left their truck parked In their field,” I thought. It wouldn’t be an unusual thing for a farmer to do. You see trucks parked beside or In fields along that FM road all the time.
Then our headlights swept over the vehicle. My brain was confused by the scene
“Wait,” I started.
“That truck is upside down,” my husband finished, hitting the breaks hard.
“Yeah… That’s not right…”
“The headlights are still on!”
He started backing up and sure enough…. The headlights were very dimly still glowing. My husband pointed our headlights towards the truck and we all had a moment of, “Now what?”
My husband jumped out and headed out into the muddy field to see if there was anyone in the truck still. I took my dad’s phone and called 9-1-1. (I felt more comfortable using his local number than my Nashville one. Dunno that it mattered but in my brain it did. I was still kinda in autopilot processing what was happening!)
As I talked to 9-1-1. I watched my husband help a young woman out of the back passenger door of the truck. I relayed this is dispatch, then had to go find out if anyone else was in the truck and if they needed to send an ambulance. As I got closer, my husband shouted to stay where I was because of the mud everywhere.
“I don’t care about the mud, is there anyone else in the truck? Is she okay?” I shouted back, barreling towards the overturned vehicle. I was acutely aware of my boots getting heavier with every step.
No one in the truck… She was badly shaken and covered in mud from head to toe, but otherwise seemed okay. I relayed this to the dispatcher and she said she had sheriff enroute and would send an ambulance just in case anyway. I thanked her and hung up the phone.
By this time, three more trucks had stopped and I couldn’t help but notice that everyone was dressed for church as well. Any other night of the year, the road could have been void of cars for hours at that late hour.
The girl was disoriented and definitely in shock. She was more worried about where her side mirrors landed than the fact she wasn’t wearing shoes. I took my jacket off and handed it to her — my favorite leather coat my husband brought back for Korea as a gift for me — because she was shaking and it was cold out there. Something in my heart and gut said she needed it far worse than I did. It was a no-brainer.
“No! I’m a mess!” she protested.
Almost in unison, my husband and as both said, “It washes. Take it.”
She gratefully wrapped up in it and her shaking slowed a little.
The crowd started to disperse a bit. Everyone could see she was okay, and they knew I had been on the phone with help and it was just a waiting game.
I got a chuckle when she said the engine still ran, so maybe they could just push the truck over and she could still continue to her destination that night. Or maybe not. How did it even happen, she wondered out loud.
My guess was that she just missed the curve, going straight instead of to the right. What mattered, though, was that she was okay. She told us she almost cried when she saw us stop…. THAT got me.
My dad brought me my mom’s jacket, as I was standing out in the cold in a short sleeved dress… I didn’t really feel the cold until I put that coat’s warmth on my arms. All I wanted to do was give the girl a hug, and tell her it was okay. She was pacing and quite lost. She eventually walked back to the truck and fished her cell phone out. We all got a laugh when she called her boyfriend and went, “Honey, I don’t think I’m going to make it.” “Why?” “My truck is flipped over in a field!”
The sheriff arrived and I went to get a business card… I wanted to leave my jacket with the girl and the deputy could return it to me the next day. The girl declined and the sheriff gave her one he had. I think my husband and I were both hesitant to leave her, but she was in good hands. The ambulance arrived to check her out as we did finally part ways. When we went to get in our truck, I took stock of how caked my new boots were with mud… And I just didn’t care. We had helped this girl… And dammit boots and jackets wash. And even if we arrived at church late (which we didn’t) I felt more at peace in that moment than I had in awhile.
The girl has been on my mind and in my heart ever since that night. My husband told me later that when he opened the door to help the girl out, the cab was full of mud and Christmas gifts. As she climbed out, still spitting out mud from her mouth (we think the truck slid on its roof and the windshield gave in filing the truck with mud), she said her Christmas was now ruined. My husband disagreed with her.. What mattered is she walked away from a rollover. On Christmas Eve.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I felt God in that field that night. He put us in the path to find her. And while we got her help… He also gave us pause to look around at ourselves and our purpose in life… Moment to moment, year to year. It was oddly the most Christmas moment I could have had.
The thing is, this is the fourth time my husband and I have been one of the first on the scene of an accident. My husband summed it up so beautifully on his Facebook page that night…
I’m no hero… Just in the right place at the right time. All I’m going to say is we have a job to do… To look out for one another. Take care of each other. Hug your loved ones a little tighter, for an extra second or two this season. Merry Christmas everyone. I’m having an extra special one… All is well with my heart, and I’m thankful.
Amen, honey. Amen.