Yesterday I had the privilege of interviewing a 16-year-old, organ donation recipient, along side her mother.
The entire conversation was beyond moving but when she began to tell me about the organ donor’s passing, I became paralytically speechless.
The tears had already been flowing but when I learned the organ donor was a young, 14-year-old girl who’d been riding in the passenger seat of her newly-licensed, big sister’s car during the accident that inevitably claimed her life, I silently broke wide-open.
*Apparently this girl and her sister both appeared to be physically unharmed, with no trace of a single scratch. However the young girl, (Danielle was her name) had sustained an internal head injury that ultimately led to brain death.
Why did this brake me you may ask?
Because when I was a newly-licensed, big-sister-driver, my 14-year-old sister climbed into the passenger seat of my car after a fresh rain, one cool, slippery, fall day.
We’d had our nails done together and I made the highly, logical decision NOT to fasten my seatbelt for fear of smudging my polish…
While driving too fast around a set of curves on a two-lane road, my car began to fishtail.
We then went sideways on an embankment, hit a tree head-on, which flipped my car upside-down and on it’s top as we landed back onto the same road I’d flown off of only seconds before.
I remember hanging upside-down, watching the double-yellow lines pass quickly underneath my shattered but NOT busted-out windshield.
My car slid approximately 50 more feet upside-down before coming to a complete stop.
I was addled upon stopping but also VERY aware that I was hanging upside-down and NOT hurt in any way, shape, form or fashion.
Survival mode began to kick in.
I had no idea where on the road we’d landed and I feared another vehicle would plow into us unaware.
My sister was moaning but looked physically unharmed as I feverishly began looking for a way to get us out of the car.
Still hanging upside-down, I quickly surveyed the inside of the car and realized I could roll the window down (up really, when you’re upside-down) to climb out.
Side note: it was my first car and though it was nice, it wasn’t fancy enough to have power windows at that time.
It was THEN in that moment, as my hand found the window handle, I fell gently out of my seat, crawling out of that mangled, shattered car without a single scratch!
To my astonishment, a woman who’d come up on the accident first, had already pulled my sister out of the vehicle.
First responders arrived, immediately shutting down the road because my car had landed in both lanes.
EMS pulled up just after.
My sister and I were both spotless and unscathed—except (much like Danielle) she’d hit her head during the accident.
Paramedics tried to take us both but I knew my hard-working parents would have to pay major medical bills for my unneeded hospital transfer and testing, so I signed a transport refusal. However, because my sister had experienced what appeared to be a small head injury, EMS quickly began preparing her for departure.
As I stood there in shock of all that had transpired, my arms were crossed across my chest. I looked over them many times, trying to find a hint of injury or scratch and could not. As the adrenaIine began to slow, I became more aware of my body. I moved, shifted and bent my neck from side-to-side in efforts to notice any whiplash or internal pain—NOTHING.
THEN, it hit me like a TON of bricks—how was I hanging upside-down, perfectly seated and positioned inside that smashed, demolished vehicle with NO SEATBELT, NO STEERING WHEEL, NO DEPLOYED AIRBAG or no other vehicle apparatus to hold me in position? As the weight, the questioning, the confusion of what just happened ensued, the woman (Mary was her name) who’d shown up first and pulled my sister out of the car, walked over to me once the ambulance had sped away.
She put her arms around me, then stuck out her hand and said,
“I thought you’d like to keep this. Your little sister was clutching it in her hand so tightly. I had to pry it out of her fingers as they loaded her onto the stretcher.”
The item she revealed to me in that moment was the small, clear-plastic angel you see pictured here.
When I began to drive only one month prior, my mother purchased this angel air freshener to hang from the rear-view mirror inside my car.
She’d prayed over it and prayed over me in order to combat the fearful dreams she’d been having that were alluding to my death.
I KNEW in that moment something unexplainable had occurred.
I KNEW someone or something I couldn’t see or feel had been with us—using one unseen hand to press my limp, unsecured body firmly up into my seat, while simultaneously using the other unseen hand to place that angel air freshener safely inside my sister’s tightly clenched fist.
To this day, she has no memory of ever grabbing that angel. 🙌🏻
I remember thinking that day that God must have had a reason to save my life. I remember feeling like I must have a bigger purpose ahead but I had no idea the road to finding it would continue to be long, hard and full of hardship. I don’t pretend to know the higher ways of God and why some live while others die. But I do know that while God has used my life for good in big and small ways, the ultimate reason I exist is to glorify him and share his goodness with those around me. It just so happens my preferred method of doing this, is through story.
Fast forward to today. It is my 36th birthday and this clear, plastic angel that frequently accompanies me while I write, has just turned 20!
My mother kept it in a china cabinet for many years but gave it back to me sometime ago when I felt as if I’d lost my way. I keep it near me most days so I’m reminded that God—YES GOD—does in-fact have a plan and purpose for my life! (I bet you have a story like this too.)
That HE HAS saved me in more ways than one, spared me in more ways than one and prepared me for such a time as this. (Speaking of such a time as this, did you know the beginning is always the present moment?)
Henceforth, you will not see me trying to become a minister of some sort or pastor a church—but you will see me trying to live the rest of my days (however short or long they may be) sharing through story, the goodness of God in the land of living.
You will not see me trying to appear like a spotless lamb or take on a hyper-spiritual persona—but you will see me trying to be as vulnerable, transparent and authentic about my spiritual experiences as I can possibly be.
A friend from a past life season told me once that some pain is sacred and not meant to be shared. Her words stuck with me and still ring true today. Some of our pain and life experiences ARE sacred and are best stored in private conversations between ourselves and the divine. However, much of our pain, stories and experiences can STILL BE USED FOR GOOD and SHOULD BE USED FOR GOOD and you will see me trying to do this until I draw my last, glorious, labored breath.
Jesus paid it all and he is worth it all and as a result, I will give him my all—even the terrible, ugly parts I don’t want him to see. (Do you have those parts too?)
If I’m being 100% honest, at one time or another, I’ve broken all the rules, ignored all the commandments and lost many a friend because my way of doing things during certain seasons of life didn’t quite meet expectations.
I’ve been the recipient of Jesus’ love, Jesus’ grace, Jesus’ forgiveness, Jesus’ power and Jesus’ mercy and as filthy as my rags have been and may still yet be, I will spend the rest of my days doing my upmost to kneel by his side, offer him my rags and wipe his feet with my tears.
36 years of life, LIVED—I am truly most grateful and humbled to my core.
And though I beg him for more time because there’s still SO MUCH to do, if I’m only granted one more day on this-here earth, please know these 36 years have been seen correctly…
—as a messy yet beautiful, highly-valued gift that some will never receive.
“Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling; naked, come to thee for dress; helpless, look to thee for grace; foul, I to thy fountain fly; wash me Savior, or I die.”
“While I draw this fleeting breath, when mine eyes shall close in death, when I soar to worlds unknown, see thee on thy judgement throne, Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.”