I was 22 years old. My husband of eight months had left our home in Illinois to travel to Homecoming at Johnson Bible College in Tennessee early on a snowy February morning with five teenagers from the small congregation we were serving in Illinois.
A small group of us from the church had prayed with them for safety on the trip and watched them drive away. A little while later I went to the junior high school where I was teaching English and history and began my workday. Around 10:00 a.m., a fellow teacher stuck her head in my classroom and said, “There’s a phone call for you.”
I knew. I knew in my heart that something had happened.
It was a deacon from our church who told me there had been an accident. The car had slid on ice, gone off the road, and hit a tree. The injuries were serious. He told me he would pick me up and take me to the hospital in a town a couple of hours away.
All the way there, even while responding to the conversation he was making, in my heart there beat one refrain, Please let him know I’m coming. Please let him know I’m coming. We arrived at the hospital and began asking for information. We found one of the teenagers who had been injured, and she told us to leave her and go find him.
We did. In an intensive care unit. On a respirator. Not laughing. Not teasing. Unable to make any response. So quiet. So pale. So still. I asked a nurse about his injuries and she said she was not allowed to give any information . . . but if I knew anyone who could come, I should call.
I called my mother and father. They were hundreds of miles away, too far to come quickly, but theirs were the voices I needed to hear. When they asked me about his injuries, I told them the nurse said she couldn’t tell me. Overhearing, she hesitated and said, “You might tell them there’s no hope.”
I repeated the words. But I thought, No hope? For the believer there is always hope. And into my mind came these words: “Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew 21:22, King James Version). I stood there in the hallway of the hospital. I asked in prayer, believing, for the life of my young husband.
Then a doctor came. He described the severe head injuries my husband had sustained. He told me how long he had been without oxygen before they put him on the respirator. He spoke . . . and then he was gone. I stood again in the hallway outside the ICU. I no longer knew how to pray. Given the nature of the injuries that had been described to me, I did not know if it was right to ask that he live. I only knew I could not ask that he die.
And then it came . . . a fragment of the Word that I didn’t even know that I knew. Only a portion of it came to me that day, but I have since planted it firmly in my mind. “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26, 27, New American Standard Bible).
I stood there in that hallway, with my world falling apart, and I felt the Spirit interceding for me with groanings too deep for words. I had no words to express the anguish I felt. But I felt his presence. I felt his comfort.
A short time later, the doctor came back. He didn’t say anything. He put his hand on my shoulder. He shook his head. He walked away. I wept.
People who were there have told me I functioned fairly well after he died. They said I talked to all the teens who were injured. They said I participated in making some of the decisions that had to be made. They said I hugged friends and family who came and tried to assure them I was OK. They said I smiled. I’m sure I must have. Those memories are dim.
But the memory that has always remained sharp is the memory of his Word, coming at exactly the moment I needed it. In the way that I needed it. Sustaining me. Enfolding me. Comforting me.
I stood in that hallway and I held on to the Word.
Kay Moll, formerly director of Vacation Bible School ministries at Standard Publishing, serves as director of women’s ministries and missions at Christ’s Church at Mason (Ohio).