It all happened so fast.
I was sitting in the middle front seat of a Chevy S10 traveling back from helping a new convert, Michelle and her husband Tony move to a new home, my eyes slowly started to close due to the workload we had just performed.
Michelle was driving and my companion on splits, Elder Liljenquist was seated beside me. The rain was coming down so hard, it was almost impossible to see anything through the windshield, but we traveled onward, following Tony in the moving truck. I finally gave in to exhaustion and dozed off for just a moment when it happened.
I heard a loud crunch and shot up, looked to my left and saw a car facing the opposite way, pressed against our small truck. A drunk driver had tried to pass us going at speeds exceeding the limit and hydroplaned, spun out, and smashed into Michelle’s truck.
Before I had time to react, we were forced into a ditch and flipped sideways. Elder Liljenquist hit his head on the windshield, I cracked my rib on the steering wheel and slammed my head on the rear view mirror, knocking me temporarily unconscious. Michelle took the majority of the force and we were thrown on her. She broke her ankle and sprained her knee, dislocated her shoulder, and suffered severe bruises and cuts. Amidst screams and the blistering rain and wind, I tried to come to my senses. Tony and his daughter saw the accident and immediately turned around. We were trapped because of the position of the truck, but eventually freed ourselves by forcing the door open.
We hit the ditch going over 70 mph. According to certain laws of nature, and the amazement of the police officers that arrived shortly thereafter, we should have been thrown through the windshield and beyond, but we were spared that experience. Neither Elder Liljenquist or I had functioning seat belts, so by that factor alone, we had Divine help preventing us from being ejected from the vehicle.
The weeks and months afterwards were a mix of slow recoveries and frequent visits with Tony and Michelle. This wonderful couple had just been baptized a few months prior to the accident and we worked with them to help them understand the Plan of Salvation and reasons for trials.
I was transferred from the area after a time and started fresh in a new town. 4 months after our accident, I got some terrible news-Tony and Michelle had been in yet another car wreck a few days before Christmas-almost the same cruel fate as before. A drunk driver was going the wrong way on the freeway and hit Tony and Michelle head on.
Tony suffered severe injuries, and Michelle was killed on impact.
I listened as the missionary on the phone explained the accident and I broke down in tears. I had a life altering experience with this couple only months before, and now she lost her life due to the carelessness of a drunkard.
I wondered why.
Why after so much study and prayer, this sweet couple devoted their life to the Lord and made the covenant of baptism, only to experience tragedy months afterward.
It shattered the ward we were in, but arms of love extended to this family.
I took this experience very hard and felt such sorrow for what Tony and his daughter were going through-they lost an incredible wife and mother.
As the years passed, I thought often of the plan of salvation and life after death. Up to that point, I hadn’t lost loved ones in that kind of manner-so sudden and unexpected.
One day I found myself pondering the meaning of life and I felt a very strong impression to attend the temple. I hadn’t attended in a very long time due to the frequent surgeries and hospital visits, and the condition of my body at that point was such that I would struggle to focus my attention. I was discouraged because of it and wrestled with the thoughts of inadequacy and shortcomings.
But I decided to go regardless.
As I was sitting in the chapel waiting, there was an organist playing hymns and I decided to read my scriptures. While reading, the spirit entered the room, and immediately I felt a magnified peace and calm. I knew that I was supposed to be there that day because I had the distinct impression and feeling that Michelle was watching over me. I wept.
Not out of sadness or despair, although there were times I felt those feelings, but I wept because it was then that I knew the power of the Plan of Salvation. I no longer questioned “why”, and my fear and despair was washed away through the Atonement of Christ.
He suffered and died on the cross, arose 3 days later as a perfect, immortal being, and because of that we all will live again.
The Plan of Salvation is known by an additional name-the Plan of Happiness. It is called that because this life is not meant to be experienced sorrowfully, but joyfully. Yes there will be tragedy and loss, but because of the Savior, we all can live again with Him and Heavenly Father after this life.
“O death where is thy sting, O grave, where is thy victory………But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This gift is one of the greatest gifts we have been given as children of a loving Heavenly Father.
We will see our loved ones again and what a comfort that is.