34: The Gift of Hope

34: The Gift of Hope

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels and Miracles

The Gift of Hope

Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.

~Bruce Lee

I left my Brooklyn apartment for a bike ride at about 6 a.m. on October 2, 2007, and it was an unbelievably beautiful day. There was the smell of fall in the air, the sky was a deep blue, and there was no one on the streets. The morning felt like a secret; it was so dark and quiet it gave me shivers. The leaves that remained on the trees on my block were starting to turn a golden yellow.

On this particular morning I rode past the apartment buildings in my neighborhood and then into the more commercial area: the furniture outlets and the mattress factories, the abandoned brick buildings with the painted names of past tenants chipping off their brick façades. I wanted to take it all in. I was feeling good. The world felt big and I felt wonderfully small.

About a half hour into my ride, the sun was starting to rise over the low buildings in the industrial area by my place and I decided that watching the sunrise as I rode out the last fifteen minutes would be a perfect conclusion to my morning workout. I wanted to see something beautiful that would stay with me all day, like a secret that I would carry with me.

Stopping at the light at the corner, I signaled to the car that was behind me, and to the truck that was in front of me that I was turning right. Neither of the vehicles had indicated that they were turning right, so when the light turned green, I took my right turn wide and easy, without a thought about the eighteen-wheeler to my left — because it wasn’t turning, and for that matter the car behind it wasn’t either. I thought I had tons of room.

I didn’t.

The truck driver hadn’t seen my indication that I was going to turn right. He hadn’t seen me at all. All he saw was a green light, and he turned.

The last thing I remember before actually being run over was the hollow sound of my fist banging the side of the truck, and then I felt as though I was tumbling. I don’t know where my bike went. I knew I was on the road, and there was this moment when I thought, “Am I in an action movie? This is the kind of stuff that happens in action movies. What can I do to stop this?”

The answer was nothing. There was nothing I could do.

Before I even really realized what was happening, I felt pressure and then heard a cracking sound. The realization that the cracking was my bones shocked me. I squeezed my eyes shut, and I felt the first four wheels of the truck run over my body. I didn’t have time to process the pain. All I could think was, “Sweet Jesus, please let this man stop before the second set of wheels comes for me.”

“No, no, no, please God no,” I shrieked before the second set of wheels rolled over my already crushed middle.

This time I kept my eyes open. I watched those giant wheels run over my body. I heard more cracking and felt the grooves in the tires on my skin. I heard the mud flaps thwack over me. I felt gravel in my back.

I lay there waiting for something to change, to get better or worse. I waited for a break in the silence that kept ringing in my ears. I remember looking up as the early morning sky went from that deep blue to a sunlight-pale, pale blue — the clouds looked as if they were whipped out of cotton candy.

As the initial shock of impact began to wear off, my body reacted with crushing pain. It was unlike anything I could have imagined. This excruciating pain was doing relay races up and down the length of my body. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to stop it. I couldn’t shake it off, or massage it, or walk to a place that I thought would somehow give me relief. I had no choice but to just lie there, trying not to drown in it. I began to pray every prayer that I had ever learned. I begged God to help me, to save me, to not abandon me.

Moments later, as if summoned, a middle-aged man in khaki cargo shorts, a plaid short-sleeve shirt, and a New York Yankees hat stepped out of his Toyota Camry and walked toward my spot on the asphalt.

With no hesitation he slipped his rough hand into mine, looked into my eyes, and with a Spanish accent and a confident tone said, “Listen to me, I am a pastor — I have spoken to God, and he has told me you are not going to die today. Okay?”

I needed for him to be right. “Do you promise?” I asked, with the sincerity of a six-year-old.

“Yes,” he promised. If I could have lifted my hand, I would have made him pinky swear.

He took my other hand and said, “Let us say the Lord’s Prayer,” and as I held his hand and said the prayer that I had been saying since I was four years old, I suddenly felt less alone, less afraid and I was filled with a feeling that surprised me. I felt hope. I knew this person had come to give me strength when I was at my weakest.

Because of that hope, I began to fight for my life. I was backed into the corner, but I had to keep punching. I had to have faith that I was going make it through this. Even as the emergency room doctor told me that I probably wouldn’t make it through the surgery, I still held tight to that hope.

After five hours of emergency surgery, the doctors told my parents my blood wasn’t clotting and they were going to give me one more hour of blood transfusions before they gave up and let me go. With only fifteen minutes until my deadline, my blood miraculously began to clot.

I later found out that October 2nd is the Feast Day of the Guardian Angels. Every year on that date I go to the corner where I almost lost my life. I bring a glass of champagne for myself, and one for my angel, to celebrate the gift that I was given that day. I raise my glass, say the “Our Father” and count my blessings that my angel kept his promise, and gave me the greatest gift I have ever received: hope.

~Katie McKenna

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