“We do not need more intellectual power, we need more spiritual power. We do not need more of the things that are seen, we need more of the things that are unseen.”
– Calvin Coolidge
So, as most of you know, one of my stories was just published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. Now, once you’ve been published for the first time, this strange thing happens. It sparks this urge inside of you to do more…to write more, to submit more. In other words, I’m addicted. Yep, I admit it. Addicted. So, with this being the case, I have been unashamedly scouring the Chicken Soup website keeping an eye on their “upcoming topics” list to see if I have anything new to submit in whatever particular category pops up.
Well, one such category that has been sitting there for a while has been the one called “My Guardian Angel.” Each time I come to that one, I quickly scroll past it looking for something else…anything else. Why? Well, this one deals with spiritualism. Mysticism. All of that stuff that makes me…well…uncomfortable. Let me write about the everyday, realistic events and I’m a happy camper. But tell me to write about anything that delves into the unexplainable? Nope. You lost me. Can’t do it.
Yet, this story just kept popping into my mind. This memory of an unexplained event from when I was 18-years-old. Each time I scrolled across that “Angel” category, this memory nagged at me. Should I write about it? *sigh* How could I write about something that even I didn’t understand? Something that very well could have been just a coincidence. Ya know, just one of those things.
But finally, I figured it had gnawed at me long enough. I was going to do it. I was going to sit down, start typing, and just see where it went. And before I knew it, the story had told itself. I really didn’t have much of a say in how it came out – that’s kind of how this writing thing works for me. Somewhere down in there I already know what I think and what I feel. I just don’t realize it until I see the finished product on the page before me. And this was one of those times.
So, with the Christmas season upon us, I have decided to share what I submitted. Hey, who knows? Maybe some of my fellow skeptics could use a story like this once in a while. Maybe you’re like me and a little dose of spiritualism could be just what the doctor ordered to get you out of this real world funk right about now.
And so, without further adieu, here’s my story about Mike.
“Stop worrying, Dad! The car is FINE. I’m going!”
These are those ‘famous last words’ that you’ve heard tell of. They were being uttered by the stubborn 18-year-old version of myself as I was flying out the door to head to my first college party. The year was 1996 and I was just finishing up my first semester of community college. Being the frugal person that I was, I had opted to get the first two years of general education classes under my belt at the more affordable community college before transferring to a university in my junior year. The closest community college was thirty minutes away, so I lived at home with my dad and commuted. Thus, since a commute was going to be involved, I had to have a car. After a few months of borrowing my dad’s vehicle, we had finally – much to my delight and glee – decided it was time for me to own my very first car.
Now, again, I was frugal (and so was my family) so we headed straight to the used car section. I found what I thought was a great deal on a cute little car, but my dad had his doubts from the start. He wanted to get it thoroughly checked out before we agreed to purchase it, but not me. I was in a hurry.
“Daaaad. We can’t give every car the third degree. Let’s just pick one already. I want THIS one…”
So, he gave in. Yes! The cute little car was mine!
And pretty much no sooner than we had driven off the lot – the problems started. First, the constant overheating. Next, the ‘knocking’ sound coming from the engine. But oh no – I was not to be deterred. Not Miss Fancy Pants College Girl. I had my own car! So, the needle went to the “H” every now then? Big deal! I just wouldn’t look at it. So, there was a pesky little sound coming from the engine? Hey – I could just turn up the radio. Problem solved!
So, here I was, smack in the middle of this multitude of warning signs screaming for my attention, preparing to head out the door to a Friday night party in my college town. I had been looking forward to it for weeks and had been shocked that my dad was going to allow me to go without much whining and cajoling from my end. But as the night arrived, along with an unexpected winter snow storm to boot, my dad started having hesitations. The snowy roads combined with the problems that were plaguing my car were enough to make him speak up. But I was not listening. I was an ADULT, thank you very much. I was not about to miss that party.
So, off I went.
I swung by and picked up my friend Carrie and the two of us started on our thirty-minute drive in the snow. Just as we hit a long stretch of somewhat deserted highway, the evitable finally happened. My precious little cute car spit and sputtered its final breath…and died. Luckily, I had just enough time to allow it to coast to the side of the highway, just barely over the line onto the shoulder, before it came to a complete stop. And there we were. Two 18-year-old girls stranded on the side of the road on a snowy dark night. Now, remember, this was 1996 – this was before the time of cell phones. There was no whipping out the cell and calling my dad for help. No, we were stuck. Really, really stuck.
We started looking around to see if we could tell if there were any houses nearby. Of course it was too dark to see anyway, but having driven this stretch of road so many times in the past few months, we knew that we had managed to break down in the least inhabited portion of the drive. (Murphy’s Law, of course.) Walking to get help was evidently not going to be an option. So, we decided to do the only thing we knew to do. We got out of the car and started trying to wave down passing cars.
As the snow grew heavier, the cars on the interstate starting becoming few and further between. The few cars that we did see pass either didn’t see us, or were too worried about their own safety to try to stop on snowy roads to pick up two strangers. After having no luck whatsoever, and starting to freeze in the frigid temperatures, we piled back into the car. We hadn’t sat there long before – oddly – a truck pulled over to the side of the road in front of us. Looking back, it never occurred to me how strange it was that he knew to stop. We were no longer standing outside of the car and there were obviously no lights on inside in the car since everything had stopped working, so how did he even know there were people in the car needing help? Regardless, there he was. And boy, were we grateful.
Of course, we were hesitant at first to climb into a stranger’s truck. At this point, however, we were cold and desperate. The warmth of the truck was too inviting to pass up. As we climbed inside, the first thing we noticed was a picture of what we assumed to be his beautiful wife and two smiling kids taped to his dashboard. He introduced himself as “Mike” and asked where we were headed. We explained our situation and where we were headed and, as luck would have it, he was heading that very way and would be glad to drop us off. We felt an immediate ease with Mike. He had a jolly laugh and had us giggling along with his family stories by the time we arrived at our destination. As we piled out of the car, we asked Mike if there was anything we could do to repay him. His only answer? “Just be careful, girls. Listen to your dad next time.” And with a wink, he drove away.
Had I told him that my dad had told me not to drive that night? I couldn’t remember. I didn’t think I had…but surely I must’ve. How else would he have known? I shook off the thought, and headed in to the party. I made the dreaded call to my father to explain the situation. Since it was so late and travel was so treacherous, we made the decision to stay at the party host’s house for the night and allow my dad to come pick us up in the morning when the weather had cleared. In the meantime, he would call the tow truck and have the car removed from the highway.
The next morning, my dad arrived to pick us up and told us where the tow truck had taken the vehicle. We made a pit stop on the way home to drop by where the car was stored so that Carrie and I could pick up some personal belongings we had left behind in the car. As we pulled into the snow-covered lot and rounded a curve, my jaw dropped open. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There, under a thin layer of new snow, sat my car.
I was floored. What?! What had happened? My father gave me ‘the look,’ to which I immediately responded, “I didn’t do that, daddy! It didn’t look like that when I left it, I promise!” Of course, I was wasting my breath telling him that. Obviously, anyone could plainly see that I hadn’t been in the car. Why is that? Well, for one thing, the driver’s side was smashed in. You couldn’t even see the steering wheel anymore – it was hidden beneath a mangled pile of metal that used to be my precious little cute car.
After a few phone calls and info from the tow truck driver, we soon discovered that after Mike picked us up off of the side of the road, a driver had fallen asleep behind the wheel of a U-Haul truck, veered off the road, and smashed into my car, totaling it. The U-Haul driver, seeing that no one was in the car and realizing that his own vehicle was still in good driving condition, drove on and stopped later down the road to call in the incident. And here’s the kicker. After a review of the police report and the U-Haul driver’s statement, the estimated time of impact was able to be determined. The time? Approximately two minutes after Mike had picked us up off the highway.
A mere two minutes later and my friend and I would have been sitting huddled in that car trying to keep warm as the U-Haul plowed into us. There is no doubt in my mind that we would have not survived the impact.
After discovering what happened, Carrie and I asked around to try to find Mike. We described his vehicle to everyone we knew. We even paid for a small ad to be placed in the newspaper asking him to come forward so that we could give him our proper thanks. No one ever turned up. No one had ever heard of Mike.
Was Mike an angel?
I sit here eighteen years later reflecting on that night and I wonder. Yes, maybe he was just a mortal man who somehow sensed that someone needed help inside a dark car on the side of the interstate in a winter storm. Maybe that’s just all there was to it. But somehow, somewhere deep inside me, I just don’t think that is the whole story. Yes, I’m eighteen years older now. I’m a rational, practical adult who no longer has her head in the clouds.
Yet still. Still, down there deep inside of me, lies the part of me that still believes. That still believes in things that are unseen. Things that are unexplainable, mystical, spiritual. Things that are beyond the capabilities of my tiny human mind to comprehend. Somewhere down deep inside, maybe I do believe in angels.
And Mike? Well, I’m certain he was one of them.
“Believers, look up – take courage. The angels are nearer than you think.”
– Billy Graham