Out of the Shadow of Death … Love


I can remember only bits and pieces of that September day in 1986. I can remember going to work, but I can’t remember going home. I can’t remember, either, the meeting I had that evening as Young Women president of the Salt Lake Sugarhouse Stake with a new ward Young Women president. But she says that I did visit her and that I left her house at about 6:30 P.M. After the meeting, I must have decided to drive my new car up Emigration Canyon east of Salt Lake City, for it was there that another driver, drunk and driving at a high speed, rammed into my car.

The accident left my memory a shattered wreck and nearly took my life. And yet, in spite of the months of pain and fear I have endured, the experience has produced something of a miracle. Because of it, I am convinced to the very center of my soul that God loves each of us and that he cares for us in ways we rarely recognize.

I suppose I must have taken that drive up Emigration Canyon to enjoy the autumn colors and spend a little free time before my next meeting with the stake Young Men/Young Women committee. Whatever the reason for my being there, it cost me dearly. As I was coming around a curve, another car swerved into my lane. We met head-on. My car was totally demolished, and I was pinned inside. When the paramedics finally pried me out of the car, they were sure I would not survive. The report sent with me to the hospital read “dead or dying.”

My spleen had been ruptured in two places, my diaphragm had been torn open, and my left lung had collapsed. I could barely breathe. I had many other severe internal injuries, and something had dug into my left leg, injuring the nerves. My left arm was cut up, my right ankle was broken, my head had severe lacerations, and my pelvis had been fractured in four places.

In the emergency room, the doctors prepared to insert a tube into my lungs to inflate them, but felt prompted not to do so. Instead, they rushed me into surgery. There they found that the internal damage was so severe that putting a tube into my lung cavity would have killed me.

The only identification I had in my purse that enabled the hospital to locate my family was my temple recommend. From it, they obtained the name of my bishop, John Pruess, and he was finally able to contact my mother.

She and my youngest brother, Cal, arrived at the hospital at about 2:00 A.M. I was out of surgery by then, and Dr. Nelson apologized for not waiting to get permission. Hospital personnel hadn’t been able to contact any of my family right away, and my damaged body had required immediate attention. When Mom discovered how badly I had been hurt, she almost went into shock.

Cal called my sister Marguerite and asked her to let the rest of the family know what had happened. She said that she started praying for me immediately. It was then that she received a strong, calm feeling and the thought, “Trust me. She is in my hands. I’m in charge, I know what’s best, and I’m all-powerful.” She wondered if that meant I would be in God’s hands in the same way our Dad was: he had died two years earlier. She began to pray again and felt rather than heard the message that I would be all right and would be getting married soon. She wondered why the Lord would tell her this, but decided it must have been the best way to comfort her.

At the time, I was not dating anyone or even thinking of getting married. I was forty-nine years old and had long since resigned myself to being single. I had struggled for many years with the fact that my patriarchal blessing had promised me marriage and yet I remained alone. I sometimes wondered if the Lord really knew I was here. There were even times when I thought that I really didn’t matter to him, since I was just an average sort of person—no one very important.

The accident changed all that. When she heard about the accident, my sister Esther wondered why the Lord hadn’t protected me, since I was an active member of the Church. Into her mind came the words, “What makes you think I didn’t?” I know that the Lord truly did protect me. He preserved my life and protected me from the kind of injuries that would have left me crippled. He protected me in the emergency room by prompting the doctors. But perhaps greatest of all, he let me glimpse the almost overwhelming power of his love.

The morning after I was admitted to the hospital, Cal and a member of my bishopric gave me a blessing. Cal had no hesitation in promising me that I would recover. He said later that he had the same feeling Marguerite had—that I would be getting married soon.

I was in intensive care for a week, hooked up to all kinds of machines that helped me breathe and that monitored my condition. Other than my stake president, my family were the only ones allowed to see me during those first few days. I was conscious but not talking. I was under such heavy medication that I have very little memory of those first two weeks. Mostly, I remember isolated times when people came to see me.

After I left intensive care, I was awake and talking. I had become very dependent and wanted one of my family with me all the time, so they set up a schedule and took turns sitting with me. I was in a lot of pain.

The first thing I became consistently conscious of was an intense awareness of love. I can’t ever remember feeling so secure. I felt very much wrapped in God’s love. The feeling was so profound that even to this day I can’t adequately describe it. I was also very much aware of the love my family had for me, and I could feel it surrounding me.

This feeling expanded as I became aware of other people. My Young Women counselors came to see me almost every day, and I felt their concern. Bishop Pruess came to visit me often and told me that the ward was praying for me, and I felt love coming from the ward. Members of the stake came to see me and told me of the great outpouring of prayer for me in the stake. My friends at work visited me, and I also sensed their concern.

I felt all this love at the deepest, most fundamental level of my soul. That love, I believe, is what helped me survive the very difficult time that followed the accident.

The Lord blessed me in so many ways during the following months. I don’t know how I knew, but I knew from the first that all of my injuries would heal and that I would return to normal. I also knew that if I were to recover, I couldn’t waste any strength hating the man who had hurt me. I concentrated on getting better rather than dwelling on what was wrong. I knew that the Lord was helping me focus on love and on people rather than dwell on the horror.

After I had been in the hospital two and a half weeks, the doctors said I could leave. They suggested, however, that my family take me to a convalescent center. I was quite frightened at the thought of moving. I remember pleading with Cal to ask the Lord what we should do. I had been leaning very heavily on the Lord, and I didn’t want any decision made without consulting him. My family was there, and I had been leaning on them, but I knew that, above all, the Lord was caring for me.

On September 20, I was transferred to a care center. The medication was cut in half, so I became more aware of what was going on around me. For a week, I worked hard at building up my strength and learning how to get around with broken bones. Then I was moved to Cal’s house. I appreciated him and his wife for letting me stay with them. It felt good to be in their home. His children would come to my room after school and tell me what they had done that day. Their visits did much to ease me back into normal life.

I had been so heavily drugged in the hospital that even though I knew why I was there, I hadn’t been able to focus on any one thought. But now I was off all medication. For the first few nights at Cal’s, I was afraid to go to sleep. I felt I had such a slight hold on life that I might not wake up in the morning. While lying awake at night, I would start to think about the horror of what had happened and about my injuries. I realized that I could have been killed or permanently damaged physically.

On those nights when I became frightened, I would turn to the Lord for help. Almost immediately, my mind would be filled with peace and with an awareness of the many blessings He had given me. A great calm would envelop me, and I would fall asleep. At such times I felt overwhelmed by Heavenly Father’s goodness and love.

About seven weeks after the accident, I was able to return home. My family stayed most of the day, helping me get settled in, but I spent my first Sunday morning home alone. That was very difficult. After being with people and being surrounded by their love, I felt a terrible loneliness that day—something deeper than I had ever felt before. I had gone through the typical frustrations of being single and of wanting to be a mother. Now, after having been wrapped in the wonderfully sustaining love of my family, I wondered if I could handle living alone any more.

That afternoon, Jerry Tucker came to visit me. We had come to know each other through his calling as high council adviser to the Young Women program, so I wasn’t too surprised when he continued to visit me. Months later, though, when he proposed marriage, I wondered if I was reading my feelings correctly. I suppose, quite naturally, that I felt the need for outside assurance to confirm that my judgment and thoughts were sound. Because the Lord had been so close to me through the crisis of the accident and the slow healing, and because my family had given me such tremendous support, I felt the need for their approval and for wisdom outside my own.

So I began praying about Jerry’s proposal. My prayers were answered one day when a great feeling of peace washed over me. I knew then that this was my time to be married. I also knew that the Lord had not left me alone and that I would never be cheated of anything he had promised me. Jerry and I were married in the Salt Lake Temple on 12 February 1987.

I have wished that I could share with all my single friends the assurance that this experience has given me. I am convinced, at a deeply personal level, that though we sometimes can’t see or understand what is happening in our lives, Heavenly Father is always there, caring for us.

In time, all of my injuries healed. But I will never be the same. I learned so many things that I thought I knew but really didn’t. I have a much deeper faith and trust in the Lord now. I know he lives. I have felt his influence in my life.

I learned that miracles do happen to ordinary people. I had felt that I was no one special, and yet I know now that I am special—I am a daughter of God. We are all special, because we are all children of a loving Heavenly Father. That fact is very real to me now.

Before my accident, I didn’t know how incredibly loving and kind God is. I am sure that even now I don’t begin to comprehend the depth of his love, but I sense that it is far deeper than any of us know. I know that even if I had died or had been crippled, the Lord would have been there looking after me, blessing me in ways he saw best.

I learned how important prayer is. I could actually feel the strength of the prayers being said for me. Now as I pray for the Lord to watch over my loved ones, it has special meaning. If something distressing were to happen, I would want him to be with them as he was with me. When my miracle happened, it was several hours before anyone knew and could begin praying—but how many times had my family remembered me in their daily prayers before that time?

I learned about joy. The Lord told me in a blessing that he had extended my life and that he wanted me to make it a joyful, happy one. I understand now that it is important to him that we are happy. I find references to joy throughout the scriptures. I see far more clearly now that the gospel is a gospel of joy.

I learned the value of health. Our bodies are a special blessing, and good health is to be treasured. I feel an urgent need to take care of my health. Our Heavenly Father has given us life and everything we have. Our part is to take care of what he has given us.

Something terrible happened to me, but I have received so many blessings that I still feel in debt to the Lord. I owe him more than I can ever repay. But I don’t think he wants “repayment.” He wants my love. He wants me to be happy—and that will happen as I love and serve him with my whole soul, sharing my joy with those around me.

[illustration] Illustrated by Wilson Ong

[photo] “The Lord told me in a blessing that he had extended my life and that he wanted me to make it a joyful, happy one,” says Sister Tucker, shown here with her husband, Jerry, on their wedding day.

Lois Owen Tucker lives in the Emerson Ward, Salt Lake Sugarhouse Stake.