18: Freeze

18: Freeze

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen


God is with you always. Simply turn your face to Him.

~Kirpal Singh

Oh no! The moment the latch clicked, I knew I was in trouble. While owning a charter-fishing bed and breakfast business in Seldovia, Alaska often meant problems, nothing we had ever dealt with had been this frightening.

In 1986, in response to my urging, my husband Dave resigned from a job he disliked to do what he loved most—fish. We sold our home and most of our possessions, had a boat built and, having no income, and no insurance moved with our two children to a location accessible only by boat or by plane. Dave’s fishing business met with almost instant success. Clients soon learned to trust his knowledge of the sea and the sturdy craft he captained. Dave also knew where to find halibut, Alaska’s most sought-after fish. A stay-at-home mom, I cooked hearty meals and did whatever else was needed to keep our growing list of clients comfortable.

A few years into the business, we added freezing of halibut for our customers. When our two small freezers proved inadequate, we purchased a used 8’ x 16’ walk-in freezer from The Seldovia Native Association. That the older-model freezer had never been equipped with a safety door worried me not because its hinges were bad and the door required an extra shove in order to shut tight. I would go in and pull the door closed without letting it latch, so as not to waste electricity.

One spring, before opening our business for another season, we added foam insulation to the aging freezer. Dave tore its rotting door apart, reinsulated it and installed new hinges.

“This is going to be so nice,” I said, trying the latch, noting how smoothly the door worked.

We turned the freezer on the day before our first clients arrived. The next morning, following a hearty breakfast of pecan pancakes and reindeer sausage, I walked down to the boat with our clients and kissed my husband goodbye. Returning to the house, I cleaned up the kitchen and hurried out to the freezer to make sure all was ready for the fish Dave was sure to bring in. I stepped inside the freezer, turned on the light and pulled the door gently behind me as usual.

It latched! I had just shut myself in the freezer!

Maybe the door didn’t shut very tight.

Did I mention that I am an optimist? I pushed with both hands. Nothing.

Backing up, I ran at the door, shoving hard against it with my shoulder. The door refused to budge. Repeated slamming forced me to face reality. The temperature inside the freezer registered well below zero. Dressed for summer, I wore no gloves, no hat, not even a jacket to help keep me warm.

No one knew I was in there. Was I going to freeze to death?

Grabbing onto one of the heavy metal carts we use for packaging fish, I rammed it against the door, then backed up and rammed it again. My efforts proved futile. The new insulation no doubt muffled whatever sound I might make. Besides, our closest neighbors lived too far away to hear.

Pushing the cart away, I bowed my head and prayed aloud, “Lord, I know you love me. If I die, I know I will go to Heaven. But what is my husband going to do without me? We have all these charter trips planned. He will come and he won’t know where I am. Lord, I don’t know how I’m going to get out of this freezer. There is no way I can survive until five o’clock.”

Ice crystals brushed my cheeks as I closed my eyes. “God, you are my hope. If I ever needed a miracle, I need one now. If I can’t get out of this freezer, I’m coming to Heaven. I’m not afraid to die.”

Icy fingers of cold gripped my body. I shivered uncontrollably. How long did it take for one to freeze to death?

A gentle urging broke through the chill: Try the door one more time.

No problem. For as long as I could breathe I would keep pushing on that door.

Rather than back up and make a run for it. I placed both hands flat against the door and pushed. The door opened!

Stepping out into the warm sunshine, I began to cry. Raising my arms, feeling it’s heavenly warmth, I praised God and thanked him for saving my life. I then went in the house, grabbed the phone, and called in an order for equipment that would enable us to open the door from inside.

Sunday at church as I relayed my experience, a man who had worked for The Seldovia’s Native Association and had used the freezer for many years said, “Peggy, there is no way you can get out of that freezer from inside. That door cannot be opened from inside.”

“I know,” I said. “If God had not opened that door I would not be here today. It was a miracle from God and I thank Him!”

~Peggy A. Cloninger

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