The Accident

The Accident

From A 3rd Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul

The Accident

Our real blessings often appear to us in the shapes of pains, losses and disappointments; but let us have patience, and we soon shall see them in their proper figures.

Joseph Addison

Christmas Eve came on Sunday that year. As a result, the usual Sunday night youth group meeting at the church was going to be a big celebration. The mother of two teenage girls asked me after the morning service if I could find a ride for her girls that night. She was divorced. Her ex-husband had moved away. She hated to drive at night, especially since there was a possibility of freezing rain that night. I promised to get the girls to the meeting.

The girls were seated beside me as we drove to the church that night. We came up over a rise in the road, only to see that a multiple collision had just taken place on a railroad overpass just ahead. Because it had started to freeze and the road was very slick, we were unable to stop and slammed into the back of a car. I turned to see if the girls were okay when I heard the girl beside me scream, “O-o-oh, Donna!” I leaned forward to see what had happened to the girl seated by the window. This was before seat belts were installed in cars. She had been thrown face first through the windshield. When she fell back into the seat, the jagged edge of the broken windshield glass had gouged two deep gashes in her left cheek. Blood was streaming down. It was a horrible sight.

Fortunately, someone in one of the other cars had a first aid kit and applied a compress to Donna’s cheek to stop the bleeding. The investigating police officer said the accident was unavoidable and there would be no charges made, but I still felt terrible that a beautiful 16-year-old girl would have to go through life with scars on her face. And it had happened when she was in my care.

At the hospital emergency room, Donna was taken immediately to the doctor to have her face stitched up. It seemed to take a long time. Afraid there were complications, I asked a nurse why the delay. She said the doctor on duty happened to be a plastic surgeon. He took many small time-consuming stitches. This also meant there would be minimal scar tissue. Perhaps God was at work in all this mess after all.

I dreaded visiting Donna in the hospital, fearful she would be angry and blame me. Since it was Christmas, the doctors in the hospital tried to send patients home and also postponed elective surgery. As a result, there were not many patients on Donna’s floor. I asked a nurse how Donna was doing. The nurse smiled and said she was doing just fine. In fact, she was like a ray of sunshine. Donna seemed happy and kept asking questions about the medical procedures. The nurse confided that with so few patients on the floor, the nurses had time on their hands
and made up excuses to go into Donna’s room to chat with her!

I told Donna how sorry I was for what had happened. She brushed the apology aside, saying she would cover the scars with pancake makeup. Then she began to excitedly explain what the nurses had been doing and why. The nurses stood around the bed smiling. Donna seemed very happy. This was her first time in a hospital and she was intrigued.

Later at school, Donna was the center of attention as she described again and again the wreck and what happened in the hospital. Her mother and sister did not blame me for what happened and even went out of their way to thank me for taking care of the girls that night. As for Donna, her face was not disfigured and, surely enough, pancake makeup almost covered the scars. That made me feel better, but I still ached for the pretty girl with the scarred face. A year later, I moved to another city and lost touch with Donna and her family.

Fifteen years later, I was invited back to the church for a series of services. The last night, I noticed that Donna’s mother stood in the line of people waiting to tell me goodbye. I shuddered as the memories of the wreck, the blood and the scars cascaded back. When Donna’s mother stood before me she had a big smile on her face. She was almost laughing when she asked if I knew what had happened to Donna. No, I did not know what had happened. Well, did I remember how interested she was in what the nurses did? Yes, I remembered. Then her mother went on:

“Well, Donna decided to be a nurse. She went into training, graduated with honors, got a good job in a hospital, met a young doctor, they fell in love and are happily married and have two beautiful children. She told me to be sure to tell you that the accident was the best thing that ever happened to her!”

Robert J. McMullen Jr.

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