The Day I Almost Lost My Dad

 Today, Nine Years Ago:

I was having a bad dream. Dad and I were driving down a country road. I was driving. We crested a hill and started down the other side. Partway down the hill, the van slid over into a driveway on the left side of the road, then slid back across the road and hit a bank, guardrail or maybe a tree on the other side. I heard a thud and crunching metal…

The dream went on, with a fireman asking me to rate the pain in my nose on a scale of 1 to 10, “with 1 being hardly any at all, and 10 being the worst you ever felt”…

Then I was apparently at a hospital, on a stretcher. “There’s your dad,” said someone. Sure enough, he was on a stretcher about ten feet away.

“Hi, Joel,” said Dad. “I love you.”

I love you too, Dad,” I replied…

I awoke from my dream. As my eyes adjusted to my surroundings, something didn’t seem right. Then I realized: This isn’t my room! I’m at the hospital! So—was my dream real?

A lady came into my room to do something. “What happened to me?” I asked.

She chuckled. “You’ve been asking us that over and over,” she said. “You were in an accident—I think you hit a tree. You were driving. You had a concussion, and your dad has a broken ankle, but he’ll be okay. They said you were up and walking around at the accident scene. We’ve contacted your mom, and she’s coming to see you.”

As she left the room, I lay back in bed. So that’s what happened! I thought. But what in the world was I doing on the road with Dad? The only thing I could think of was that I had gone with Dad to deliver eggs (on Wednesday), but I didn’t remember that happening. And if it was the case—That clock over there says it’s Friday! I thought. How long have I been laying here?

The machine parked beside me pumped up a blood pressure cuff on my arm every so often and took my blood pressure. My blood pressure was running in a normal range. A nurse came in and taped a cut on my right ear.

As I lay in bed, I remembered about a month before—Valentine’s Day. We had had about six inches of sleet on that day (a Wednesday, of all days!) and Dad had worked until 2:00 PM to open up our quarter-mile driveway with our garden tractor so that we could get out to deliver eggs. By the time he finished, he had a headache, so he asked me to come along and drive. I wasn’t an expert driver, and as evening came on and the slush on the road started freezing, I did some rather dangerous things. (Dad ended up driving the last thirty minutes home.) One thing he had said that evening came back to me. “Sometime, when things are slick, I need to take you to a parking lot and let you do donuts and learn how to handle slippery roads,” he said. “The problem is, the times when you want to do it are times like tonight, when you feel like staying home.”

Lying in bed now, I wondered if Dad was over in his room, berating himself for not teaching me how to handle slippery roads.

About an hour after I “came to” or woke up (whichever it was), they took me upstairs to a normal room. (I had been in a private room in the emergency room.) On the way to the elevator, they took me over to see Dad. After chatting for a bit, we went on upstairs. They parked my bed outside the doorway of my new room and asked me if I thought I could walk over to the other bed. I climbed, somewhat gingerly, out of bed and walked across the room to the other bed. After making sure I was settled, the nurses left.

I lay in bed, still trying to figure out what had happened. It was a regular hospital bed, with electronic controls to adjust it. Every couple minutes, something in the bed would roll to the end and partway back up, I suppose to keep my circulation going, or something. Try as I might to get the bed adjusted, it seemed like the foot was always hanging down just a little, and the only time it seemed “right” was when the roller had rolled all the way to the end, right under my feet.

After about half an hour to an hour, Mom walked into the room. Boy, was I glad to see her! I immediately began plying her with questions. What was today? What was I doing out on the road? What had happened, exactly?

Mom began answering my questions. “Today is Friday, March 16th. Grandma came yesterday, remember? This morning, you and Dad went to look at a stair lift for Uncle Dan. You were on the way to look at another one when you had your accident.”

Things were falling together. It was as though my memory was coming back to life. I indeed remembered looking at a stair lift that morning.

Mom had already talked to Dad. She told me that we had had our accident on Park Mills Road, which meant it wasn’t too far from home. She didn’t know the exact location. Dad was now in surgery.

We spent some time together, talking about the accident and related topics. After Dad came out of surgery, Mom went to be with him. “You don’t happen to have any reading material with you, do you?” I asked.

“Actually, I do,” she said, reaching into her purse and pulling out a book. “I brought this along to read if I had to wait. But you can read it if you want.”

It was entitled The King’s Daughter and Other Stories for Girls, but I took the book gladly. It was definitely better than having nothing to read.

The evening passed by. I got a call from Grandpa and Grandma Horst. Nurses stopped in periodically to check on me. I ordered supper and ate it. Mom stopped in again, once or twice. She was going to spend the night at the hospital. The roads were terrible. She had had enough trouble just getting there, and things were even worse now—icy and snowy. She would be sleeping on a cot in Dad’s room.

As I mused on the day, I realized how quickly life could change—or end. I resolved to be a better witness for Christ.

Around ten o’ clock, I was ready to go to sleep. I needed something for my contact lenses. Surprise—the hospital had no contact supplies. (I would have thought they would have a “sample kit” type of pack for just such cases as mine—but no.) They got me a couple small plastic cups with lids and some saline solution syringes that were actually designed for rinsing out IV lines (like the one stuck in my right arm), but that did the trick. I took out my contacts and lay down to sleep. The somewhat uncomfortable hospital bed was not terribly conducive to sleeping on my side, as I normally did, but I managed to get relatively comfortable, and settled down for sleep.

As I lay there, still thinking over the day’s events, I heard singing coming from the hallway, or maybe the nurses’ station, which was close to my room. “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine… This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long…” The words, sung by one of the nurses, soothed and ministered to me. I relaxed, and in a little while, I fell asleep.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I was awakened the next morning by the entry of a doctor. I sat up rather sleepily as he approached my bed. “What do you want?” I asked.

He chuckled. “Just your arm, young man, just your arm. Anything else than that, it’s a million dollars. The only other thing I want is a million dollars.”

I gave him my left arm, and he inserted a needle and began filling a syringe with a blood sample. I decided to say something for Jesus. “Well, the only One who can give you that is Jesus Christ.” (In retrospect, I realized that wasn’t exactly accurate, but remember, too, I had just woken up!)

He looked at me with a big smile. “Are you a Christian?” he asked.

“Yes, I am!” I replied.

He told me that he was a Christian as well. “Are those your parents down the hall?” he asked.

“Yes, they are.”

“And are they Christians, too?”


“I wondered!” he said.

We chatted a bit about the accident and whatnot. “You have to take things one day at a time,” he said. “I was listening to Loretta Lyn sing that on the radio this morning on the way to work—“One day at a time, Sweet Jesus…”

“What time is it?” I asked as he prepared to leave. With my contacts out, I couldn’t clearly see the clock on the wall.

“It’s six o’ clock,” he told me.

Later, he met Mom in the hall. “I knew you were washed in the blood!” he told her.

At lunchtime, the food guy brought our plates into my room. (Mom was with me at the time, and was getting food from the hospital as well.) “He’s another Christian, Joel!” Mom said.

“That’s right!” he said. “There’s quite a few of us here. God has us here for a purpose.”

I had gotten back my clothes the night before, as well as the contents of my pockets. My pants were intact, and so were my shoes and jacket, but my shirt had, apparently, been cut off of me. It was shredded. (Dad’s clothes had fared worse. They had cut everything except one shoe.) So I put on my jacket instead. By now, I was feeling better. Before, if I had moved very quickly at all, I would feel dizzy. I still had to be careful, but by now, I was out of bed and sitting in a chair in my room.

In the early afternoon, I went over to see Dad. He was down the hall a little ways from me. (They had put us in separate divisions to prevent mix-ups.) He had a very black right eye and a brush-burn on his upper lip that looked like a Hitler-style mustache. The insides of his lips were also bruised. He had taken out his contact lenses the previous day, but Mom hadn’t thought about bringing his glasses (she had been so flustered, she could only think of getting to the hospital right away!), so he couldn’t read very well (he is quite nearsighted, just like me). They had only given him one cup for the two lenses, so when he put them back in, he would have to figure out which one went to which eye.

In addition to his broken ankle, now held together by screws and a metal plate, he also had a huge gash on the back of his leg.

He had a good perspective on things. “God allowed this for a purpose,” he said, “and I’m just thanking Him for this.” He also told me more about the accident.

They released me from the hospital in the mid-afternoon. Mom took me home, with orders from Dad to bring “some real food”. We arrived home about 4:00 PM or so. Everyone was happy to see me. I went down to the house, where it was nice to relax in my own home.

It had snowed four inches of snow the previous day. Nathan had had to plow out the lane and be man of the house. The responsibility had weighed heavily on his 13-year-old shoulders, and he was happy to have someone else to turn things over to. They had to move the fence for the sheep. Fortunately, they were able to do it without my help, because my head was still sensitive to too much movement, and I didn’t think that herding sheep would be good for me.

Mom got some things together (including some “real food”) and went back to the hospital. She spent the night there again. The rest of us took it easy.

 And Afterward…

Dad came home Sunday afternoon. It was great to have him home again. It was the beginning of many weeks on the couch for him.

On Monday, we went to see the accident site and the van, which was now at an auto repair shop. Dad told us to bring some crowbars and other tools for getting things from the van.

The van 038

I was aghast when I saw the van. The door had been crumpled in a whole foot. The floor was buckled up, and apparently, Dad’s right foot had been pinned between the floor and the door. His left foot had been pinned between the door and the engine cowling.

Inside the van 035

The front passenger seat was twisted to the left—and his leg had been between the door and the seat. That explained the big gash in the back of his leg, but it was a miracle that his leg wasn’t broken at that spot.

We removed our belongings from the van, and left it at the service center for salvage. Our faithful van was totaled.

The door after it was cut off 022

The door

That was the beginning of some “stretching” times for our family. I was suddenly thrust into the job of farm manager, and my 18-year-old head had a hard time keeping up with everything that needed to be done. But God gave us His grace for our trials, and saw us through that difficult year.

Nine years later, the day seems both vivid and not so vivid. The impact that it had upon our lives lasted for quite some time. Dad’s ankle took a long time to heal. By now, he has pretty well recovered.

God wants us to realize the frailty of life. Until we crested the hill two and a half miles from our house and our van turned sideways, we had no clue that our lives would be changed. By God’s grace, I still have my dad. He could have died.

Dad wrote the following email soon after the crash:

We are grateful for an experience that God has allowed to happen in our lives (yes, you read that right!). On Friday, March 16, I (Myron) and Joel were heading toward Urbana to get on 270. We were on our way to Washington DC to pick up a stair lift for my uncle, Dan Horst, who has cancer and has difficulty going up stairs. We had only gone about 2 1/2 miles. It was snowing a little and the road was wet, but didn’t seem to be slick. Joel was driving. We crested a hill when suddenly the back of the van started coming around. The van slid sideways across the road right toward a tree. I called out, “Lord, help us!” The van slammed into the tree going 40 miles an hour right in the middle of my door. Both of my feet were pinned between the caved in door and the engine. Joel, who had a concussion and doesn’t remember anything that happened, pulled the cell phone out of my pocket and called 911 giving clear information that there were two people and one was pinned in the wreck, and our location. Both Joel and I were taken in separate ambulances to the Trauma Unit at Suburban Hospital. Joel had a mild concussion and was released the next day. My right leg was the only thing that was seriously injured. I have a broken ankle, several small bones broken in my foot and two fractures in the small bone of the lower part of my leg. I had surgery to repair my ankle and a metal plate was installed to hold the pieces of bone together. I also had a large hole in the back of my leg that had to be closed up. I was released on Sunday and will have a cast on for at least six weeks. Things seem to be progressing well, and I have little pain.

It is ironic that several hours later, President Bush’s motorcade also had an accident near Urbana on 270.

I have sensed that God allowed this accident to happen for a purpose. I believe that God has something important that He wants to teach me either through the experience itself or during the forced rest in the weeks following. During our time at the Trauma unit I thanked God for the accident and allowing me to go through this experience. In addition to being thankful for the accident itself, we are also grateful that the accident was not worse. It could have been much worse. I realize after looking at the van, I was only inches from death. I have a large brush burn on my upper lip where my face hit the tree, and the inside of my upper and lower lips are black from the impact. I also had the blackest black eye I have ever seen. My work here on earth is not finished. We are looking forward to what God has to teach us through this accident. We are also grateful that Cathy’s mom had just arrived from Kansas several days earlier. She has been a great help, and was able to stay with the children so Cathy could come to the hospital.

Last year we also went through a difficult time that many thought was unjust, and unfair when our rent on the farm was increased 2300% and we had to move. However, now in looking back we see that God allowed that to happen for a purpose. He had a much better farm for us…

Our family is grateful for what we had to go through. It taught us to trust God and seek His direction in a deeper way than we had to before. Why do we wonder why God allows bad things to happen to us? Rather we need to find out what God’s purpose is in the event that He has allowed to happen. He has told us that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 Our responsibility is to be thankful for the gift from a Person who sees the bigger picture than we can, rather than complain about the gift as if it were a problem.

After I finished up writing this email and was getting ready for bed, I pulled a piece of paper from my pocket that I had stuck there when we were looking at the van yesterday. The paper had been laying on the floor of the van where my feet had been pinned. It was a paper that Cathy had given to me close to a year ago when I was feeling discouraged about not being able to find a farm. The paper had on these words “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” Psalm 34:19

The Christian life is not easy, is definitely not boring, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

God’s blessings to you,



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One Reply to “The Day I Almost Lost My Dad”

  1. Very good, Joel. So that was 9 years ago. Yes, God has a purpose for you & your Dad. Keep serving Jesus and encouraging others to follow Jesus.

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