From A Second Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul

Take My Hand

The car crept slowly up the dark mountain road as February winds dusted the slick pavement with new-fallen snow. From the front seat, my two college friends navigated the old car over the icy road. I sat behind them with a broken seat belt.

The back end of the car fishtailed. “No problem, Mary,” Brad reassured me, gripping the steering wheel. “Sam’s house is just over the next ridge.We’ll make it there safely.”

I heaved a sigh. “I’m glad Sam’s having a party. It’ll be so good to see everyone again after Christmas break.” I hoped my cheerful friends could bring me up from one of the lowest points of my life. Even Christmas at home in Hawaii had been disappointing, leaving my heart empty and hollow. Nothing had been the same since Dad died two years ago.

Sensing my despair, Dad’s sisters had taken me aside after Christmas dinner. “Pray to the heavens, honey,” they coaxed. “Your daddy is there. He can hear you and help you.”

Pray? Bah, humbug, I thought, as I left the family gathering. I’ve given up on God.

Moonlight glistened off the icy pavement. Our car approached the bridge traversing the canal waters feeding the nearby lake. As we crossed the bridge, the car began swerving out of control. “Hang on!” Brad screamed. We spun 360 degrees before careening off the road. The car rolled over, slammed onto its top, and my body crashed through the rear window and onto the frozen earth. As I groaned, only half-conscious, I noticed no sounds fromthe front seat. I started crawling, hoping to find the road, and help. Digging my elbows into the ground, I dragged my battered body across the rough terrain.With the next pull, I slid over a knoll and somersaulted down the other side and into the freezing canal water.

The pain and cold left me limp. Then I heard a voice scream, “Swim!”

I began to stroke with my arms.

“Swim!” the voice called. It sounded like Dad. “Swim harder, Mary Ann!”

He was the only one who called me Mary Ann. “Daddy!” I cried, as the current pulled me under. I thrust myself through the surface of the water when I heard him scream again, “Swim harder!”

“Daddy, where are you? I can’t see you!” I yelled, as the frigid waters pulled me under again.

Too frozen and weak to fight, I felt myself sinking deeper into the darkness. My head swayed back, and I gazed up through the surface of the water where a bright golden light glowed. Then I heard Daddy holler again, “Swim, Mary Ann! Take my hand!”

With allmymight, I hurledmy body upward, through the water and into the light. There, my daddy’s hand extended. I recognized his touch, his grip as he pulled me up.

Then the light, the hand—the moment—vanished. I was clutching a chain extended across the canal.

“Daddy!” I cried. “Come back!Helpme.Helpme, Daddy!”

“Over here!” another voice yelled. “She’s over here!” A stranger leaned toward the water’s edge. “Hold on to the chain and pull yourself to shore!”

Hand over hand, I yanked my frozen torso within the stranger’s reach, and he lifted me to the bank. My body and my mind were numb.

“Let’s get you to the hospital,” the man said, wrapping me in a blanket. He sniffed near my face. “Have you been drinking?”

“No,” I mumbled.

As I drifted into a merciful state of unconsciousness, I heard him say, “You were calling for your daddy.”

I came to in the emergency room, where I was treated for hypothermia.My friends had sustained only cuts and bruises.

“You’re all lucky,” the highway patrolman said. “Especially you, young lady. Those chains are strung across canals to keep animals and debris from flowing into the lake. I can’t believe you knew to grab it when you did, or had the strength to in that freezing water.”

“I had help,” I muttered.

“You must have had help, Mary,” the patrolman said. “You were deathly close to being sucked into the underground siphon that pumpswater into the lake. Another ten feet, and we’d never have found your body.” He pattedmy shoulder. “Somebody up there is looking after you.”

Not just somebody, I thought. My Daddy.

That afternoon in the canal was the last time in my life I’ve been afraid. Even years later, when our infant daughter had open-heart surgery, I had a faith-filled peace no one could understand. I can feel that, with Dad’s help, the hand of God is over me. I need only to reach out and grasp it.

Mary Ann Hagen
As told to LeAnn Thieman

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