77: Wilderness Angel

77: Wilderness Angel

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel

Wilderness Angel

You’ll meet more angels on a winding path than on a straight one.

~Terri Guillemets

I was lost in a remote section of wilderness just north of Anchorage, Alaska in the dead of winter. This was years before the wonders of the smartphone or GPS. The only reference I had to go by was a crude map I’d hastily scribbled on a paper napkin as the Newcomers Luncheon hostess, whom I’d never met, gave me directions over the phone.

“My home is easy to find,” the woman had said. “You shouldn’t have any trouble at all.”

But somehow, and to this day I still don’t know how it happened, I’d taken several wrong turns and ended up on a deserted stretch of road miles from any sort of civilization. No gas stations. No corner grocery stores. And eventually, not even a clearly defined stretch of road.

I tried not to panic, but that was rather difficult when I saw nothing but wilderness through my icy windshield. I thought about retracing my route, but the narrow road made it difficult to turn around. Finally, though, as I inched my car forward, my tires crunching the thick layer of snow beneath them, I realized that if I went any farther I might end up stuck in a snowdrift. I was dressed warmly and wore gloves and snow boots, but still, the prospect of abandoning my car and walking scared me. It was already afternoon and the temperature had only warmed up to thirty-four degrees. It was bound to plummet as the day went on.

“Help, Lord,” I prayed aloud as I eased my car to a halt and shut down the motor. What should I do? If I tried to make it out on foot, I might end up even more lost than I already was. Also, I had to consider the very real threat of bears and other hungry wildlife lurking outside the shelter of my car. I sat still, trying hard not to cry, considering my options and praying for a miracle.

After a few moments I looked into my rearview mirror. A brown, compact automobile of a make I couldn’t identify was inching its way slowly toward me. A government car, maybe? Flooded with relief, I swiped my teary eyes and scrambled out of the car. “Thank you, Lord,” I cried as I waved my arms, signaling for the brown car to stop.

“What’s the problem?” a young man of about thirty dressed in a business suit and overcoat yelled as he exited his car and walked toward me. “Are you stuck?”

“No,” I said. “Just lost. I must have taken a wrong turn.” I laughed a little, but it was a nervous laugh. “Do you know where I am?”

“Where do you want to be?” he asked, and I told him.

“Wow. You really did take a few wrong turns,” he said. “You’ve gone about two miles in the opposite direction. You need to turn around, take a left when you get to the fork, and just follow that road back out to the main highway. The highway will take you straight into town. You won’t be able to continue much farther on this road anyway, I’m sorry to say. It dead-ends a few hundred yards up ahead, but there’s a turnout right around the next bend that will allow you to get pointed in the right direction.”

I was so relieved and thankful for his help I wanted to collapse at his feet. “Left at the fork; main highway; straight into town,” I stammered. “I can’t thank you enough.”

The man smiled, and at that moment I sensed a wave of such warmth and peace that every shred of anxiety I’d felt was gone.

“You’re welcome,” he said, heading back toward his car. “Glad I could help.”

I watched him for a second, then climbed back into my own car and cranked the motor. But then something strange happened. As I looked into my rearview mirror, I saw nothing but the back end of the road and a few miles of snowy wilderness. The young man and his brown, nondescript car had vanished — just like that! It couldn’t have been more than thirty seconds or so since I’d seen him. So, where had he gone?

I sat there, stunned. Then I clambered out of my car again to get a better look — to heck with any lurking hungry bears. He couldn’t have turned around and disappeared that quickly. Impossible!

But the man was nowhere in sight. He and his car had vanished. Slowly, I walked the few yards back to where he’d stopped to help me. Searching the ground, I couldn’t find a second set of tire tracks in the snow, only my own. How could that be?

Beginning to shiver, it occurred to me that something truly extraordinary had just happened. Why, if the road I was on only led to a dead end, had the young man been traveling down it himself? Why was his car so unremarkable? I didn’t even remember it sporting license plates or any other emblem that would identify its make.

Then, suddenly, I knew. I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt who that man was. I’d prayed for help and God had answered. Oh, how He’d answered! Down to the roots of my being, I understood that the young man in the nondescript brown car had been an angel.

It’s been years now since I’d lost my way on that dead-end road in the wilderness, but the memory of meeting an angel there has never faded. I’d not only made it back to the highway that day, I’d made it to the luncheon, albeit a little late. But I made up for my tardiness by having an awe-inspiring story to tell everyone there.

I’ve been telling it ever since.

~Paula L. Silici

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