The Blessing of Comfort

ambulance

April 27, 1991

“I know what you’re going through,” said the EMT at my side while the other one drove the ambulance to the hospital. “I just lost my wife three weeks ago,” he said in a somber voice.

“Mark will be okay,” I said as he placed the oxygen tube in my nose and checked my heart rate and blood pressure. He has to be okay, I thought. I can’t live without him.

“Is there anyone we can call for you?”

“Yes,” I replied and recited my parents’ phone number.

No answer confirmed my earlier fear they had already left with our two kids to pick up my 14 year-old niece, Linda. She had agreed to watch Christopher and Katie for the evening until we returned from our all day house hunting adventure in Ogden, Utah. I envisioned Mom and Dad in the front seat of their 1979 gray Chevy car with the three kids in the back seat.  Like a snapshot pictured, I saw all five of them happy, healthy, and unaware that our world had just turned upside down as they made their way to our home in Sandy, Utah. They were sixty miles away and I knew it would take at least an hour for them to get to us. They were uninformed of how much I needed them and how far away they all seemed to be. Yet in that moment, I wanted to protect all five of them from this devastating news.

After several rings, the EMT interrupted my thoughts, “Is there another number we can call?”

Still struggling to breathe from the blow to my shoulder and chest, I simply recited my brother’s home phone number. I was surprised by my memory of phone numbers and calmness under such horrific circumstances. I knew God was blessing me.

“Hello,” I heard my sister-in-law, Dianne’s voice over the speaker.

“This is the paramedics in Roy City. Do you know Mark and Barbara Wilson?”

“Yes,” Dianne said, sounding apprehensive.

“They have been in a very serious automobile accident and we are transporting Barbara to McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden and another ambulance will take Mark there. We have tried her parents’ phone number, but there was no answer.”

Dianne anxiously assure the EMT she would let them know and the quick call ended.

She immediately called my oldest brother, Mick, at work. Since Dianne was home, she knew when my parents had picked up her daughter, Linda and realized they probably had time to drop the kids off at our house and were in route to their home. Mick told Dianne he wanted to go to the hospital with our parents so he called their phone number and since they didn’t have an answering machine he just left it ringing for several minutes until they returned home to answer it. As soon as they got the news, they cancelled the dinner date they had and headed for Salt Lake City to pick up Mick and the three of them drove together to McKay-Dee Hospital.

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McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, Utah

After the x-rays and removing pieces of glass from shattered car windows from my ears with tweezers, a compassionate nurse asked me if there was anyone she could call for me. I knew it would be at least an hour before my family could get to the hospital. I didn’t even know who knew at this time other than Dianne. I thought of a close childhood friend who lived in Ogden. I told the nurse I did not know their phone number, but if she could look up Darlene and Dixon Pitcher’s phone number, I would appreciate it.The nurse left the room to make the call while another one fitted a patted figure eight brace which wrapped around the back of my neck, under my armpits and fastened in the back to secure my broken collarbone. Broken pieces of glass were all over my body,but not one cut. How strange, I thought as I looked at my bruised body while the nurse cleaned the glass off. Next she brought a sling for my right arm and adjusted it to my size.

“Would you like some medication for the pain.”

“No thanks, I don’t need any,” I said numbed to any feeling.

The nurse was just finishing up with me when Dixon and his friend came to the hospital. I was relieved to see a familiar face. Recalling the frightening words from the surgeon just before he took Mark into surgery, I was terrified of what laid ahead. I asked the two men to give me a Priesthood Blessing. I didn’t know Dixon very well and had never met the friend he brought with him. It was Dixon’s wife who had been my childhood friend, but he knew just what to say and his blessing brought solace. They sat with me for a while after the blessing. I was so stunned by the experience I don’t remember what was said, but I do remember the comfort these two men brought. My broken heart was full of gratitude for them.

The nurse came back in the room and handed me a large plastic bag with Mark’s belongings. Inside was his cut clothing, shoes, wallet and watch. She explained to me in the rush for Mark’s MRI and surgery, they cut the jacket, shirt and pants from his body. She told me Mark would be in surgery for a while and I was free to wait in the waiting room.

I thanked Dixon and his friend for the blessing and visit and assured them my family would be on their way. I didn’t want to keep them from their Saturday plans any longer and told them I’d be fine, so they left. I sat for a moment on the edge of the bed in the emergency room, alone and oblivious of the other crises going on in the other rooms. I wondered how I’d make my body move. I didn’t feel pain, emotion or drive. I felt dead and consumed with despair. This must be a nightmare, I thought. Surely I would awaken soon and life would go on as planned.

Divine intervention must have given me the strength to grab the plastic bag of Mark’s belongings with my left hand as I mustered up the will to get off the bed and walked aimlessly out of the  room into uncertainty, still wearing the hospital gown for my shirt. I looked down the hall and saw some swinging doors at one end. Unaware of anyone else in the hallway or in the rooms I passed, I walked devastated and all alone through the swinging doors into the main area of the hospital. To my relief, there stood my brother, Mick, at the information desk, talking to the receptionist. Mom and Dad stood behind him and noticed me. Immediate comfort came from the sight of them. Gratefully, I was no longer alone in this nightmare, but unfortunately…that also made it more real as my family poured love and life back into me.

The Unthinkable

It’s Saturday, April 27, 1991. The alarm went off at 7 a.m. and as I wiped the sleep from my eyes, I turned off the alarm. I looked out the window at an early spring, stormy day, which only added to the desire to stay in bed. Lying next to me was my husband of twelve years. Mark was slender, tall, with dark hair, which was thinning on top. His handsome face was complemented by a dark, well-trimmed beard and mustache. He liked to defend his facial hair by saying he had to grow it where he could.

Mark had a terrific sense of humor, which was another one of my favorite traits.  He was not only quick-witted but smart. He got straight A’s in college and passed the three-part test for his Master Electrician’s License on his first attempt which was uncommon.

At age thirty-five his career as an electrician was going well. He loved his work and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. His new dream job of just a few months was located in Ogden, Utah, about 60 miles from our home in Sandy. The hour-long drive each day to and from work became tiresome quickly, so we sold our home and were looking to buy a new one closer to Ogden.

After a stressful, long week of driving to Ogden every day with Mark, I just wanted to stay in bed and rest a little longer. But we had a major decision to make this day. The closing on our Sandy home was scheduled in three weeks. Our goal was to meet with the realtor and show Mark my three favorite homes and make an offer on one of them.

Mark anxiously got the kids up and after a quick breakfast, we all got dressed and rushed out the door to our Hyundai Excel. Our two children—Christopher, eight years old and Katie, seven—were sending the day at their grandparent’s house while we completed our house hunting search. We dropped them off on the way.

We arrived at the Realtor’s office and he drove us to three different locations around the Ogden area. We looked at my three favorite homes. Each one was nice and by lunch time we were still uncertain which home would be best. We decided that Mark and I should go to lunch and discuss our options and drive past each home one more time. We told the Realtor we would definitely get back with him in a few hours to make an offer on one of the homes.

As we finished our lunch, Mark suggested I drive since I had spent the past week with the Realtor and was more familiar with the area. He handed me the keys. Back in the car, we put our seat-belts on as we always did. We drove first to a home in Uintah, and then headed west to Hooper. After driving past the second home, we headed east towards the third home which was located in Ogden. We were driving on a country lane and stopped at the sign on the intersection.  Mark pointed at a subdivision across a main four-lane road in front of us.

“I think the home is just over there,” he said while looking down at the Realtor’s list to double check the address.

I pulled forward, not realizing a full-sized pickup truck was coming from the right, and unfortunately the intersection was not a four-way stop. I don’t believe Mark ever saw the truck that hit his side because there wasn’t even time for a gasp. The truck pushed us across the intersection and into a power pole which crushed the area just behind my seat, which left both sides of the car smashed. I realized we were pinned in the rubble and immediately I thanked God that the kids were not with us.

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Mark was in the passenger’s seat when the accident happened.

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Drivers side where power pole hit



Mark, still seat-belted in the passenger’s bucket seat, was forced behind me by the impact of the truck. I don’t remember the powerful blow his head obviously gave my chest and right shoulder as he was forced behind me by the impact.  All windows were broken and gone. The hatchback door was pushed open by the collisions on both sides, and Mark’s tools were scattered all over the road. Even though I couldn’t see Mark’s face, his complete silence told me he was unconscious.

I was aware of many people around the car trying to give assistance.

“Are you ok?” they asked.

In shock I said, “Yes,” but realized something was definitely wrong with my shoulder or collarbone because my right arm was hanging abnormally and I really struggled to breathe.

Anxious people, trying to help, reached through the empty window frames for Mark. I couldn’t believe the murmuring I heard.

“I can’t find a pulse,” one said.

And another; I can’t find one either.”

One was so bold to say, “I think he’s dead!”
Since Mark was pushed directly behind me from the waist up, all I could see were his strong hands resting on his thighs where he had been holding the Realtor’s list. I gently held his left hand and prayed silently and more sincerely than I had ever prayed before.

Please Lord, let Mark live. I can’t live without him. Please let him live.

An answer to my prayer and a sign to me that he was alive, I heard a quiet gurgle from behind me.

My struggle for each breath made me wonder if I would live. I thought of our young children, we have to live for them! Keep breathing, don’t die and don’t pass out. Please Lord, help me breathe, help me stay calm and alert. It was fearsome to have to concentrate on each breath.

I was aware of the paramedics and police approaching our car with a big crowbar and saw. One EMT asked me if I was okay, as he pried open the door.

I said “yes”, too shocked, too sick to show any emotion. I was unnaturally calm and I knew it. I felt I was having an out-of-body experience; like I was watching all these people administering to us rather than being in their midst.

“Can you walk to the stretcher?” the EMT asked as he helped me out of the car.

“I think so, but what about Mark?”

“We have another ambulance for him.”

“But he isn’t even out of the car yet, I can’t leave him.”

“They’ll get him out. We need to get you to the hospital.”

I am sure the stretcher was just a few steps away, but it felt like a long distance. I looked back at our unrecognizable car with many people around it working to get Mark out. In this unthinkable moment it was impossible for me to realize just how drastically our life would change and what we had expected would not be fulfilled. Nor did I realize the grace and love I would see in other people and the blessings that would be ours because of it.

This day effected me like no other and hopefully changed me for the better.

The words of “Beautiful Heartbreak” perfectly express how I feel about this day.