When There is No Miracle

Karen's Car Accident and in Hospital


You’re not supposed to think about these things on your wedding day—especially during the ceremony. But the thought flittered through my mind, anyway. What would I do if I prematurely lost the woman I’m marrying today? 

Why in the world would this random thought float through my mind today, of all days? I suppose it was because not far behind me, in the first pew, sat my father who lost my mom early in their marriage to cancer—and I’ve always felt deep compassion for him. What if it happened to me?

On September 17, 1992, I asked myself this question again. This time for good reason. It was 6:00 P.M. My wife, Karen, waited at a traffic light in front of our home. She was going to pick up our babysitter for our night out.

When the light turned green, Karen proceeded into the busy intersection. On her left, a driver who had been drinking barreled through the red light at high speed, hitting her broadside. She never saw it coming. The speeding van collided with her compact car with such impact it bent the chassis and thrust the driver’s side door into her rib cage. (Photo above.) The collision crushed the dashboard, collapsing it in her lap. Glass rained down on her. 

Sirens sounded from the hospital across the street. Unaware, I continued to work in my in-home office in the lower-level. I heard the sirens but never connected the dots. After all, sirens were common with a hospital across the street. 

Neighbors congregated and lined the street, gawking. More sirens. Oblivious, I continued to work. Suddenly, eerie silence. Fear washed over me. I looked up from my computer and spoke out loud to an empty room. “Oh, NOOO—it’s my wife.” I bolted up the stairs, skipping every other step. Running past our sons, David, 7, and Mark, 5, who had been playing in the living room and now staring out the window as the scene unfolded before them. I threw open the door and scanned the intersection. My gut tightened when I spotted Karen’s car twisted in the middle of the street. I ran to the scene.

Firefighters were retrieving the Jaws of Life while I stuck my head through the shattered window to assess her condition. She seemed calm and lucid but complained of back pain. Her hair, set and curled just fifteen minutes ago—was now filled with glass.

Firefighters struggled to free her and suggested I go to the ER to get her registered. I knew what they were doing. Taking the panicky husband out of the equation. The dashboard pinned her legs in. It took almost an hour to free her. 

The next few hours in the ER were pandemonium. Wearing one of her favorite outfits, she looked striking—so it stunned me to see medical personnel cutting it off her body. The sound of fabric ripping horrified me. 

They ran a battery of tests, checking for spinal cord injuries, head trauma, broken bones, internal bleeding, and on and on. After several hours, test results revealed she suffered a concussion and seven broken ribs. One rib punctured her lung and was filling with blood and fluid.

As I sat in the waiting room, now filled with family and friends, the thought about losing my wife prematurely that flittered through my mind during my wedding ceremony resurfaced. Was it a passing thought or a premonition? My father had been married seventeen years before he lost my mom. I was married twelve years. Am I going to live my father’s life? I pushed the thought out of my mind.

During five days of hospitalization, we would visit often. One afternoon, when David was in school and Mark was home from kindergarten, he shared his heart with me as we prepared to leave for another visit. 

“Daddy, I wish I was driving instead of Mommy so she wouldn’t be hurt,” he said with the innocent eyes of a five-year-old, his glasses drooping on his nose.

I kneeled on one knee beside him. “Mark, I don’t think you understand, Buddy. If you were driving, then you would be hurt instead of Mommy.”

He pushed his glasses up. “That’s okay, Daddy, because I love Mommy more than I love myself.” 

His words took my breath away. 

When we arrived at the hospital, Mark stood by her bedside while she rested. (Photo above.) Her long recovery was underway.


Today, thirty-one years later, every time I gaze at the photo of her car, I realize the only thing between her and the speeding van was the small car door of her Acura Integra. Every day I’m grateful that her life—her beautiful life—was preserved. I count it a miracle.

Yet, her accident makes me think of others less fortunate. I often ask myself a troubling question. “What do you do when there is no miracle?”

There are no simple answers, if there is an answer at all. Still, two words keep coming to my mind when someone else faces a trial: SHOW UP. Be the miracle for someone else. Show up with a meal. Show up to talk. Show up to listen. To pray. To offer encouragement. Share their pain. Help carry the load. Restore their faith. Just show up.

I must admit once, when I was mentally and emotionally drained, and another friend faced a major challenge, I didn’t have the energy to show up. Honestly—and selfishly—I wanted to run. I wasn’t sure I could bear the pain of one more person. Thankfully, I showed up. And a funny thing happened. The more I helped them, the more I healed myself. Their recovery revived me.

After Karen’s accident, people showed up—with meals, wise counsel, kindness, and friendship. They sent flowers, cleaned our floors (try bending with seven broken ribs), encouraged our kids—and they brought hope to help bolster my faith. Karen received 125 cards in the mail—an army stood behind us and beside us.

In retrospect, the best thing we can give a person is hope—and renew their faith to keep going, keep believing. Charles Spurgeon said it best:

“Friendship is one of the sweetest joys of life. Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial had they not found a friend.”

It occurs to me when tragedy strikes, we all desire the same miracle—the miracle of deliverance—from the trial. But sometimes there is no miracle. At times like these, maybe we can be the miracle—by showing up to help lift the burden, reduce the pain, and restore their faith. 

It’s true—friendship multiplies our joy and divides our sorrow.





When was the last time family or a friend restored your faith to keep going, keep fighting, keep believing? How did they do it? 

What is the most practical way for you to “show up” when someone needs you? Share your thoughts with me so I can share your ideas to help others.




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