As Autumn is fast approaching, I can’t help but think that Christmas is just
around the corner. Many will be preoccupied by the long shopping lists they will
be making, but, I will taken back to a special Christmas Day in 1997.
It was the first Christmas following the untimely death of my brother, Bill, who passed away just shy of his 38th birthday. I had driven my elderly mother, my developmentally disabled older sister, as well as my young niece up to Hurley, in the northern most region of Wisconsin, for the purpose of visiting my mother’s older sister, who was ailing. This was a very unnerving journey, as the weather was not conducive to safe travel, given the 48 inches of snow, which had fallen, prior to our arrival. Readers, it may sound unbelievable, but this amount of winter precipitation isn’t the least unusual for that particular area of Wisconsin.
My mother and I, especially knew that we would not have many more opportunities to visit with this lady with her failing health and advanced. Going up to Hurley had become a tradition with us, as this was my mother’s birthplace and the town she had spent a childhood fraught with hardship, but was not without its fond memories, of a simpler time.
My Aunt’s farewell, to my mother, was a very poignant one, as I saw her hold tightly to my mother’s hands, and, pulling me closely to the group, with a quiet urgency in her voice, uttered, “I love you; always remember that”. The intensity of this hug almost caused us to fall on her porch. As we walked away from my Aunt’s house, I felt compelled to look over my shoulder and somehow knew that would be the last time we’d ever see her . . . And it was.
I dreaded the return trip home, as the snowplow drivers couldn’t seem to keep up with the blizzard and hazardous conditions, the icy pallets that fell from the sky whipped at our faces, making weather conditions all the worse. I want to point out, here, that my Aunt’s house was located in an isolated area, and on a hill. As we backed out of her drive, I felt the back end of my car slide backward into the ditch on the opposite side of the road, despite my best effort to avoid this.
I advised everyone, in the car, to remain in the vehicle, so that I could go outside, to assess the situation. I don’t think I’d ever felt so helpless and discouraged as I did on that dreary winter day. Looking about me, the street was deserted, with not a soul in sight. Everything seemed absolutely lifeless, as though somebody had taken us and just projected onto a picture of a painted winter landscape. I almost felt outside of myself. After sharing with my traveling companions that we were, indeed, “stuck”, we devised the only plan we could come up with, which necessitated my young niece of 11 years, to get behind the wheel, where the passenger’s window was slightly ajar, so that we could yell instructions to her, as to when she should shift the car into drive and gently press the accelerator.
Please bear in mind, we had rehearsed what she should do, so, that she would be well aware of what was expected of her. But the few attempts poor little Sarah was willing to make, due to her rattled nerves, proved futile. Ultimately, the decision was made to get back into the vehicle because of the blustery winds and the icy pallets of sleet that were pelting against us. Shivering, uncontrollably, I tried the cell phone, with which we might try to alert the authorities we were in desperate need of help. Because there are no towers in that area, the phone was useless. I strongly suggested we all start praying, which is exactly what we did.
Within only moments, I noticed a rusty brown truck parallel with my car. I was startled by the presence of this vehicle as the front passenger’s window was still slightly open, and I never so much as even heard anyone approaching! There before us, stood a kind gentleman, who age I could not determine, asking if he we were all right; to which, we replied that physically we were fine. Our car had just been pulled into the ditch as we slowly backed out of the driveway.
I was pleasantly taken aback by the mesmerizing gaze he directed at me; there was such gentleness about him. As I looked into those eyes of sky blue, I was immediately calm and felt confident that the answer to our prayers had come in the form of this “Good Samaritan”.
From his words to his actions, there was a softness to him, for lack of a better word, which is not to say that he looked weak, but there such an ease of movement and speech about this man. He asked us to remain in the vehicle and assured us he would push us out of the ditch. Thinking he meant he would use his vehicle, in order to accomplish this great feat, we were completely awestruck to see the man, himself, intended to perform the task, by his own strength! Miraculously, he extricated us from the rut, which had seemed to pull us into its relentless grip.
Upon endeavoring to push us out, he succeeded the very first time. I had to wonder at the super human strength this seemingly ordinary yet special man possessed. As soon as we were securely positioned back onto the road, I left my vehicle and made my way toward this mysterious stranger and extending an offering of money, for his trouble, I thanked him, asking him to take it. Looking face to face at this gentleman, I felt I was viewing him, soul to soul, rather than person to person. Feeling I was in a trancelike state, I felt so protected and secure, in this man’s presence that I didn’t want him to leave. Somehow, in my heart, this “stranger” was very familiar to me, although we had never met.
He slowly lifted his hand and said, “I can’t, it’s Christmas . . .” I begged this selfless gentleman to take my token of appreciation and again, he refused, uttering, “Merry Christmas”. I found myself returning to my car, with tears streaming down my cheeks, which I thought would freeze right on my face, given the cold, ruthless winds slashing at me, thinking, “My God, he reminds me of Bill.” With my companions, I shared my opinion that this man bore a strong resemblance to my departed brother.
As he pulled away, as though he were assured we soon would be safely on our way, I tried to get a glimpse of his license plate number, so I might, in future, learn who our rescuer was, for he was no less than that. And almost as if we were not meant to ever learn his identity, for whatever reason, I saw the back plate packed with snow.
In retrospect, I have to wonder about life’s little ironies as I remember that our temporarily disabled vehicle was positioned between my Aunt’s house and a little yellow country church and in that space, there were 4 females praying fervently to “Papa God”, Whom we were well aware heard all prayers. And who should enter into this scenario, but a complete stranger, who had a supernatural air about him.
Looking back, even today, I’m still convinced that we were met and rescued by someone, who was no less than an Angel. I doubt that I’ll never experience another Christmas Day, that I won’t think of him and his Christmas gift of kindness, warmth, and generosity of heart, which he bestowed upon 4 frightened, stranded travelers.
I’ll never forget that man ---- or that Christmas Day!
Annette M Winter email@example.com
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