No eight-year-old hated wearing a coat more than I did. Sure, a coat might come in handy on an Arctic expedition. But most of the time, I thought going coatless made a lot of sense. Who wanted to worry about finding a place to hang a coat and then get in trouble for leaving it behind?
I definitely didn’t expect to need my coat that New Year’s Eve. My family would be driving to my grandparents’ house and spending the night. I’d suffocate if I had to wear my big itchy coat for two hours, wedged in the backseat of the station wagon between my two brothers. Once we got to Grandma’s, we would play board games until midnight and watch the parade on TV the next day. Then we’d sit down to eat Grandma’s pork roast, homemade applesauce, and butter cookies. I would be indoors the whole time—no need for a coat.
As we piled into the station wagon, Mom went down her checklist. Maybe she wouldn’t notice that I didn’t have my coat. Yes, we remembered our toothbrushes. Yes, we packed our pajamas.
“Where’s your coat, Lana?” She noticed!
“I won’t need it. I won’t be outside at all.”
“Go get your coat. And hurry, please. It’s already getting dark.”
I dashed inside and yanked open the closet door. My warm winter coat and my jacket hung side by side. The jacket! Light, silky, and comfortable, it was the perfect solution. As I reached for the jacket, I had a feeling that I should wear the big coat instead.
I ignored the feeling. Surely I wouldn’t need that stuffy old thing. The jacket would do just fine.
Again something nudged me toward the heavy coat. Shrugging it off again, I snatched the thin jacket and ran to the car.
They were waiting for me with the engine running. Mom frowned when she glanced at my jacket, but Dad put the car in reverse and backed out of the garage.
Halfway into the trip, a thick layer of fog rolled in. The headlights turned the fog a milky white that was difficult to see through. My parents were tense and quiet. The mood spread to the backseat, keeping my brothers and me quiet, too.
Without warning, a pair of headlights appeared suddenly in front of us. In a shattering explosion of glass and metal, we crashed head-on into a pickup truck that had strayed into our lane. The noise was deafening, and the silence immediately afterward was just as loud.
“Is everybody OK?” My father’s strained voice was the first to break the stillness.
A shaky response came from my older brother. “I think so.”
“All of you need to get out and stand in that field. I’ll help Mom.”
My brothers and I scrambled out of the backseat and stood on frozen mud next to the road. With Dad’s arm around her, Mom limped over to us. A painful bump on the head had shaken her, but she seemed OK.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Dad asked us.
With wide eyes, we each nodded.
Dad looked each of us over before hurrying back to check on the man in the pickup truck.
My thin jacket was no match for the icy December air. Even huddled up against Mom, my shivers wouldn’t stop. I thought of my warm winter coat hanging in the closet back home.
An ambulance came, then a police car. Voices squawked from the radio as the rotating lights dyed the fog red, then blue, red, blue. Dad came back and led us to the police car. We had shivered for over an hour in the bitter cold.
A police officer drove us to the hospital. The ambulance had already taken the other man. Dad got stitches in his hand, and the doctors examined Mom’s head injury. She was OK. My brothers and I had a few bruises, but we knew it could have been much worse.
My grandparents picked us up at the hospital and took us to their house. When Grandma tucked me into bed and kissed me good-night, my body seemed to melt into the softness of the sheets. For the first time that night, I felt warm and safe.
I was exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep. My thoughts drifted back to the moment when I had decided to bring my jacket. It dawned on me that the Holy Ghost had been telling me to wear my warm coat.
A few months earlier my grandpa had confirmed me a member of the Church, and I had received the gift of the Holy Ghost. I remembered the power in his hands when he placed them on my head. I had been so excited, so eager to hear what the Holy Ghost would say to me. Now I had ignored Him. My throat tightened as I fought back tears.
A new feeling came and took the tears away. I felt the love of my Heavenly Father. I knew He would help me through the difficult times in my life. He couldn’t take away every bad thing, but He would help me if I let Him.
I moved the curtains above the bed aside just enough to see outside. The fog was as thick as ever. No stars tonight. I imagined the stars, the moon, the planets, the entire universe. The God of all creation had wanted to give me a warm coat tonight.
A tear slipped down my cheek. This time it was a tear of gratitude. I rolled out of bed and onto my knees. I needed to tell Heavenly Father that I was ready to listen and obey the still, small voice.
[Willing to Listen]
“Be humble and willing to listen to the whisperings of the Spirit.” Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Fulfilling Our Duty to God,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 39.