Mother's Day Miracle Weekend...
I married Gary Hartman in 1960; in May of 1963 Gary would graduate from Evangel College with a teaching credential…and he had his first ever teaching job offer.
In the recent past, we had decided it was time to begin our family; soon, Gary would have a good job as a teacher and I could continue working, if needed, to help make ends-meet. Life was good.
Gary was studying for finals and working part time in the college mail room and I worked full time at Gospel Publishing House in Springfield, Missouri as a secretary. We both had the weekend off, so making the 180 mile trip to see Mom and Dad Hartman seemed like a great idea. After all it was Mother’s Day weekend.
With our car packed on Friday night we were ready to go. Saturday morning dawned as a beautiful spring day with a slight cool breeze. We had just purchased our first new car, a white 1960 Ford Falcon, so we knew the ride through the beautiful green rolling hills of the Ozarks would be awesome. Windows down, we causally drove scenic Missouri State Highway 13 toward Excelsior Springs, Gary’s home town. We were listening to the radio to some of our favorite 1960’s rock and pop tunes, somewhat mesmerized by the hum of the car tires and the blur of green trees as they whizzed by our windows.
Then…topping the hill of the two lane road – a car – in the middle of the road heading straight for us! “Gary!” I shouted… “Gary, there’s a car in the middle of the road – it is in our lane…he doesn’t see us!” Jarred back to awareness by my shouts, Gary steered our car toward the right shoulder…and the oncoming car raced by - missing us by inches…the driver never stopped.
The Falcon began to fishtail in the loose gravel of the roadway’s edge and suddenly the right rear wheel hit the lip of the drainage culvert and we were on our side - skidding across the other lane toward a deep roadside ditch. We were hopelessly out of control and the worst was yet to come. Consumed by fear, I screamed a desperate prayer… “Oh! Dear Lord, what’s happening?! Please protect us!” Seconds later our car hit the ditch and flipped end over end.
When the windshield popped out, we were upside down in the ditch and the momentum of the crash caused the Falcon to act like a large scoop shovel allowing sand and gravel to engulf our face and eyes and fill the cockpit with clouds of dust and debris. Strangely, at that moment, as time seemed to slow down, a childhood memory flooded my mind. I had sand in my eye, I was crying and mother was rushing me to the doctor… reality brought me back to the now - another prayer escaped my lips, “Please God protect our eyes!” And He did.
The Falcon made one final flip, and the car settled upright across the 8 foot deep ditch with all four wheels precariously down. The sounds of metal scraping concrete were gone…the blinding dust in the cockpit was lifting…and all was still. A promise from scripture engulfed that scene: “Be still and know that I am God.”
We sat dazed for a few moments, then slowly we began to survey our situation. We seemed to be ok. And then I realized…“Oh Gary, I have a big gash on my left knee and it is bleeding.” First aid training kicked in. We found a towel we had brought in the backseat and wiped the sand and gravel out of the wound as best we could. And then we used a clean area of the towel to act as a compress and wrap to my knee. We continued to wipe the sand and gravel from our laps and then looked outside our crumpled car only to fully realize that our car was straddling the large ditch. How safe was this? Gary cautiously opened his door and jumped to the ground. I remained inside the car while he looked around.
“The car looks unsteady” he reported…. “Be careful and I’ll help you out.’’ Together we opened the badly damaged door on my side and I stretched out my right leg towards solid ground and with Gary’s gentle pull, I limped out of the car still holding the bloody towel on my left knee. We were out of the car and safe.
I sat down on the side of the road and looked at the wrecked car, “Our cute little car is ruined,” I sobbed. “It was such a nice little car – just right for us; now it’s a mess.” Gary gave me some comfort with the reminder… “It is only metal and our insurance will help get us some wheels soon…Let’s look at that gash in your knee again.” By that time people were stopping and getting out of their cars. One man reported, “I saw the whole thing, your car rolled and then flipped end over end in the ditch - are you OK? Wow! Somebody is looking out for you!”
I knew he was right. His exclamation and surprise regarding our safety caused me to immediately remember my panicked mid-crash prayers for God’s protection…and just then I said to Gary, “Where is your Bible?” It knew it was in the back seat before the wreck. Immediately he went looking amid the wreckage for his Bible. And what he found was yet another God thing. Some who read these next few sentences will likely doubt that God truly answered my desperate prayers for protection…but in my heart -then and now- I will quietly affirm that indeed angels of mercy landed our car safely and we were spared and protected.
Here is the sequence of how and where Gary found his Bible. Gary checked the scene on both sides of the road for the Bible and found miscellaneous stuff scattered about that had been in our car…but no Bible. He even crawled back in the Falcon thinking it might be covered with dust which was several inches deep in the seats and floorboard…nothing. He decided to walk around the wreck one last time and then I heard him shout…
“Found it!” Moments later he was at my side sitting on the roadside dirt with his Bible…it was open and he chattered excitedly and told me this story. “I decided to look under the car (which was still straddling the deep ditch upright on its wheels) and then I saw my Bible…It was OPEN and UNDER the left back wheel!” Our car literally landed on the open Bible! He explained the wheel had virtually no weight on it due to the car’s awkward stance over the ditch so he was able to gently slip the open Bible out. We still have that bible and it still shows the tread marks from the Falcon’s tire!
“Talk about standing on the promises of God, he exclaimed!” We both rejoiced along with the several people who had stopped to help us. Gary and I will never forget this amazing event. Even now, as I reflect on this incident, I remember a favorite promise; Psalms 91:4 says, “He will cover you with His feathers. He will shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”
At last the Missouri Highway Patrol arrived and we heard the distant wail of a siren as the ambulance rushed to the scene. That sound caused a new anxiety to rise in me…for three weeks now, I had suspected that I might be pregnant…Gary did not even know…I wanted to confirm with my doctor first…so once again, this time in silent prayer, I called on His name: “Dear Lord…you know if I am pregnant…and if I am, please take care of my baby!” With that prayer, the fear subsided and my heart and mind found peace.
Moments later we both got into the ambulance and paramedics were checking us over and caring for my badly injured knee. “This will require numerous stitches,” they told me, “but you should be fine.” Another, silent praise was sent heavenward.
As the ambulance drove away from the scene, I saw a lot of our clothes (that had been hanging in our Falcon) were now hanging on a highway “curve ahead” sign near our totaled car. “Oh, yeah,” Gary said when I asked him how that happened, “While the paramedics were giving you roadside first aid and loading you on the gurney, I climbed back in the car and hung them on the sign…I didn’t want them to get too dirty.” We both then laughed at the absurdity of that act! Gary has always been a man of action…one of his favorite sayings is…Do something, even if it is wrong…that always beats doing nothing!
We received excellent care at the hospital - our eyes and faces were carefully checked and cleaned and my knee was stitched back together both internally and externally. I still carry a large scar, a visible reminder of God’s amazing Grace to us that day.
Soon afterward, Gary called his Dad and we sat in the hospital waiting room anticipating his arrival. Finally we could relax and begin to reflect on the last two hours – yes life is fragile – we need to measure our time on earth with minutes not years - and we dare not take even one of those minutes for granted.
When Dad Hartman arrived we got hugs and assurances that all will be OK. He had even taken care of all the arrangements for our totaled car. Dad drove us to his home some 90 miles away and we rushed in to hug Mom Hartman’s neck and wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. She was so pleased to see us safe. She told us that she had been praying for us ever since they got the call about our accident. “I already have my Mother’ Day gift…My kids are home safe…Thank you Jesus for your mercy!” How blessed we were - and are – for growing up at the knee of Christian parents who taught us how to pray.
Both my parents and Gary's are deceased now…but in the sweet by-and-by we will meet on that beautiful shore and then we will all finally be HOME.
This year we celebrate our 54th wedding anniversary.
Oh, by the way…I was pregnant when we had that wreck. Months later, as I held Garrison Ray Hartman, my baby boy, on my very first Mother’s Day, I knew in my heart that this special child belonged to God and I was blessed to love, protect and nurture him at my knee. Today that son is 50 years old – faithfully serving God in his work, his home and his life. Great is Thy faithfulness. Exodus 20:6 – “I will lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.”
I close this true story with one more prayer…I pray for every mother who reads this and for their precious children. I pray you will cherish each child that calls you mother; realize that each child you are mothering deserves your unconditional love for indeed, through your example and life’s choices…each of your children can discover God’s lavish unfailing love as they join the march of a thousand generations who love our Lord and follow his commands.