My hopes of praying at the Red River Women’s Clinic the first week in December went afoul when, a day before “abortion day” here—on the Feast of St. Nicholas—I received a phone call that changed my course.
“Mom, I’ve been in a bad accident.” It was our 17-year-old son calling from his car, now upside-down, after he’d lost control of it on slick roads heading to school. It would take a while before I’d understand what happened, and where he was. I only knew that his back was injured, and he was in shock.
A short time before, he’d left our home, backpack slung over his shoulder. “Happy St. Nick’s day, Nick,” I’d said, after warning him about the fresh blanket of snow, and to be careful. But the black ice underneath laid in wait, and as he tried changing lanes, his car fishtailed, plunged through a walking-bridge fence, flipped over, and dropped 20-some feet into the ravine below near Rose Creek.
It’s a parent’s worst nightmare in these parts; something we pray about every day. “Please, Lord, keep my child safe.” We can’t be there every moment. I couldn’t be there in that terrifying moment. But God, St. Nicholas, and an army of angels apparently were.
Traveling down 25th street, still in my pajamas, I could see the ambulance ahead. After frantically calling my husband, I noticed the text from my friend. “I was there. It’s a miracle.” These blessed words were like the breath of God to me, and gave me courage to continue moving forward.
Because of the precise way the car had fallen, it was cushioned on either side; packed snow to the rear and a metal fence in the front. If not, the impact would have been straight into cement. Had the car fallen a little further to the south, it might have rolled into the creek. And had the fencepost that plowed straight through the passenger side been a little closer to the driver’s side…well, I can’t go there.
None of the front or side windows were damaged, nor did a scratch appear on our son’s phone or backpack, not to mention his body. If you were to have seen him shortly afterward as I had, sitting up in the ambulance answering questions, you’d have thought it was just another day.
So many different scenarios have played through my mind as we’ve helped our son through recovery of a fractured vertebrae. And every day, I pass by the spot—the only area that isn’t flat along that stretch—on the way to school or church, not realizing until I’ve reached the end that I’ve been holding my breath.
“Roxane, it was as if angels carried his car down,” my friend said later. When she stopped to help, working her way down the snowy hill, she had every expectation of finding “a bloody mess.” Instead, she found my son, emerging from a turned-over car, aright. “I hope you believe in angels,” she said to him, “because they were all around you.”
Years ago, this same child and his older brother accompanied me to the sidewalk several summers to pray with me for an end to abortion. Afterward, we’d grab lunch, then catch the kids’ movie at the Fargo Theater. I remember when he, our youngest of five, first learned what abortion was, and his stunned reaction. He has continued to hold firm in the belief that abortion marks one of society’s greatest ills.
Before the accident, Nick had planned to journey to Washington, D.C., this month with Shanley High School’s March for Life pilgrimage, joining the refrain of voices reminding the world of each life’s value. Instead, we’ll be home, seeking other ways to honor all lives, and in the words of poet Mary Oliver, in particular, this “one wild and precious life.”
It could take years for him to understand how exceedingly close God was to him that day—and still is. I’m continuing to grapple with it all myself. But I’m determined to know what God wants to reveal to our family, and others, through these saving moments, which came undoubtedly from his divine hand.
What I feel certain of is that, for several jolting moments, God said, “No!” to death, and “Yes!” to life. The gift he gave us cannot be adequately described in words, but will be deeply felt forever. Grasping to receive the immediate takeaways, I hear phrases like “merciful love,” and “the incredible power and might of God.”
Enjoy the gifts you received this Christmas, but do remember the most exquisite of them: the wholly sublime, irreplaceable, unrepeatable gift of life.
[Note: I write about my experiences praying for the end to abortion at the sidewalk abutting the Red River Valley’s lone abortion facility for New Earth magazine — the official news publication of the Fargo Diocese. I hope you find “Sidewalk Stories” helpful in understanding the truth about abortion and how it plays out tragically in our corner of the world. The preceding ran in New Earth’s January 2023 issue.]