Blessed to be Alive
God spared me
I have escaped death so many times that I have to believe that God has some purpose for me. I think, or at least hope, that this podcast and blog is part of God’s purpose for me.
There have been many times in my life when I probably should have died but didn’t, and I don’t mean that I deserved to die, though that is probably true as well, I mean that with the circumstances it did not make a whole lot of sense that I did not die. I used to think that it was a spot of good luck that I did not die when it seamed the logical outcome, but with how many times this has happened to me, I have come to realize otherwise. The statistical likelihood against one person accidentally or coincidentally escaping death or serious injury as many times as I have is astronomically low. Not only are the odds against repeated escapes extremely low, but the circumstances surrounding the events strongly suggest there was some divine intervention on my behalf.
The first few times I miraculously escaped death I was not old enough to ponder whether it was luck or something else that had saved me. Even though it has been with me for longer than I can remember, I am sometimes surprised when I run my fingers through my hair and they catch on the nearly scar just above the hairline on the right side of my forehead; the only proof of a massive head trauma that I suffered when I was just a baby. The scar, more of an invention really, is about three inches wide and a quarter of an inch deep, but I have been blessed with thick hair and it is always hidden where it can only be found by touch.
Since I have no memory of the events that led to the scar I have to rely on the story my mother told me of its origin.
I am not sure how old I was, but I had not yet learned to walk and I was in one of those devices on wheels that suspends the child with the feet on the ground that is intended to teach them how to walk. Of course, my mother had locked the wheels so I would not wonder off, making it easy for her to keep an eye on me while helping my father work on the outside of the house. My father was prone to fits of rage and his moods were fickled, so it was nearly impossible to know what would set him off, and that had those around him walking on egg shells for most of his life. Sometimes the very thing that made him happy yesterday would be what lit his fuse today and led to an explosion of rage, and sometimes he was angry because he wanted us to do something that had upset him earlier and was angry with us because we did not want to do it. Whenever my father would ask me to do something that had earlier upset him I was certain I was being led into a trap. Many of the things my father asked me to do caused me to play the scene in my head from Star Wars where General Ackbar says, “Its a trap!”
My mother no longer remembers what innocuous thing she did that so upset my father that day, but he was angered to the point of blind rage. Whenever my father went into a fit of rage he would throw whatever was in his hands or nearby, and I do mean anything. On that fateful day my father had a wrecking bar in his hands and he threw it at my mother. Luckily for my mother she had good reflexes and was able to jump out of the way, narrowly avoiding being injured by the flying metal bar. I had the unlucky position of not only not having good reflexes yet but also being immobile, and as a result I was unable to move out of the way.
Honestly, I probably had no idea what was about to happen and was taken by surprise when the wrecking bar made solid contact with my tiny forehead with such force that it threw me and the walker back, leaving me bloody and screaming on the driveway. My mother wanted to take me to the hospital but my father would not allow it because he was afraid that he would get arrested for child abuse, and he should have been. My mother was afraid for my safety but she was also afraid of what my father would do to her and the rest of the family if she took me to the hospital, and she had reason to be afraid, so the best she could do was to bandage my injury and pray for me.
This was not the only time I was hit in the head by flying objects when I was a kid, and perhaps that is why people think I am strange. I can honestly say that I have never been in any social setting in which I have been considered “normal” and that used to bother me, but I own my strangeness now. If one person says that you are a horse you can write them of as crazy. If two people tells you that you are a horse you can count them as crazy. When the entire town says that you are a horse it may be time to go out and buy a saddle. I wear the saddle with pride.
My father had the hobby of making and repairing electronic circuits and he always kept copper etchant around, which is used to make patterns on a circuit board. Once the design of the circuit are drawn onto the copper with a permanent marker the board is submerged in the etchant and all of the copper that was not marked is desolved, leaving only the design that was drawn. When I was a toddler I woke up in the middle of the night and, for some reason, though that it would be a good idea to see what the copper etchant tasted like, thinking it was some sort of juice, and managed to remove the lid form the bottle.
While I don’t actually remember the event, my mother has a vivid memory of it and says that she was fast asleep and was awakened by a loud voice that said, “Get Gene.” She heard the voice more than once and immediately got up to check on me and took the jug away from me just as I was lifting it up to my mouth to take a drink. My mother has no doubt that God saved my life.
Sometimes we come close to death and immediately know it, and sometimes we only learn how close we came to loosing our life later. When I was in my early twenties I was in a rollover accident that I was lucky to survive, and not only did I survive, I didn’t even suffer any injuries, not even a cut, bruise or strain. I was working for a construction company and was remodeling a house out in the middle of nowhere in Idaho and I had been waiting several days for Siding to arrive. The vinyl siding was supposed to be delivered while I worked on another house so early in the morning, so the day after the siding and other materials were supposed to be delivered, I drove out to that house to start working. When I got to the job site I realized that the supplies still had not arrived, so I decided to head over to one of the other job sites to work until I could get in touch with the supplier to find out where my supplies ended up.
On the way back to town I took a different route than the one I had taken to get there. I was driving a speed that somewhat approximated the speed limit, and when I came to a sharp bend in the road I hit an icy patch and things got exciting in a hurry. It was a sunny spring morning and it had not rained or snowed in weeks, so I was not expecting any ice, but the road I was on passed through irrigated farm land, and over night, one of the sprinklers had been spraying over the road where it froze into a thin sheet of ice. Since it was a perfect spring morning and the roads were dry I had no concerns about the conditions and was just cruising along listening to the radio. I don’t remember what song it was, but at that time in my life all I ever listened to was country so it is safe to say that it was a country song.
As soon as my wheels met the ice I lost all control and my truck slid sideways. When a vehicle is sliding 55 or 60 MPH across a skating rink and then hits the dry section of the road chaos ensues. Immediately upon coming to the end of the icy patch my truck rolled, and it did not just roll once but three times before landing on its side in the irrigation canal. I held onto the steering wheel for dear life and closed my eyes in hopes the glass that was exploding into the truck would not be embedded in my eyes.
Young men are not the most rational of creatures and when most people are in an accident he or she will say they saw their life flashes before their eyes, however, my experience was a bit different. My immediate thought was to wonder how much my insurance premium would increase as a result of my wreck and, while I never even considered the thought that I could have died until the next day, I am amazed at the sheer number of thoughts that can pass through the human mind in such a short span of time
My truck rolled three times before it was suddenly stopped by the irrigation canal
With the force the driver’s side of my truck struck the embankment, I have no doubt that the truck would have rolled several more times if there had not been a canal to roll into. Even though I was still in my seat, hanging from the seat belt with my head in the water, my first thought was to turn the engine off to prevent any additional damage. Once I I shut the engine off and unbuckled myself, I climbed out of the broken passenger window. I could not climb out of either the driver’s window as the truck was wedged on its driver’s side between the walls of the narrow canal. When I climbed out of the canal onto the road I looked down at my truck and said to myself, “Wow that is bad. There is a lot of damage.”
In the roll I lost the toolbox, the spare and broke two axles and every single window shattered, littering the roadway for hundreds of feet. I did not have a cell phone and a couple of migrant farm workers who could not speak English gave me a ride to to home of their boss so that I could call the sheriff. The farmer told me that with how his men described the scene of the accident to him he was surprised that I didn’t die.
The county sheriff picked me up at the farm and drove me back to the scene of the accident and, when we were standing on the road side looking down at my truck, he put his arm around me and said, “In my twenty seven years in law enforcement I have never seen an accident this bad where someone wasn’t seriously injured or killed. Son, someone wants you alive.”
Still, I really did not realize that my life had been in any serious danger until the following day when I heard on the evening news about a minivan that had rolled, just once, on the Malad Pass and killed all six people in the vehicle. At that point I knew the sheriff had been correct and that I was lucky to be alive and well, extremely lucky.
If it were just that one incident I would chalk it up to coincidence, but that was far from being the only time I survived without incident when, by all rights, I should have taken the big dirt nap. I can’t honestly say why God chose to let me live on this or any of the other occasions or what I am supposed to accomplish in this life, but I am convinced that I am not here by accident and that it was only through divine intervention that I did not die a horrible death years ago. Since I have been spared so many times I have to assume that God wants me alive for some reason and that I have not yet accomplished what he wants me to accomplish. I said before that I was extremely lucky to have survived my rollover, but I luck had nothing to do with it; there had to have been some divine intervention involved, just like the sheriff suggested.
When I was younger I used to obsess over what my purpose in life was and was discouraged and depressed by the fact that I had not figured it out yet. I somehow thought that everyone else had life all figured out by the time they were my age and that I could not accomplish God’s purpose for my life if I did not know what that purpose was. I have since come to the realization that it is OK to not have life all figured out and that God can be leading me even if I don’t know where he is leading me to. A person can follow step by step directions, given one step at time as they become relevant, and arrive at their destination without knowing where the final destination is on the map or how to get there. What is required is to trust the one giving the directions, and no one gives better directions than God does, even if they don’t seam to make sense at the time.
While I have no more of an idea why God wants me alive than I did when I was young, I know that he does want me alive and I am grateful for that. I don’t know what purpose I am meant to accomplish, but just because I don’t know what it is does not mean that I am not accomplishing it.
The instances mentioned so far are far from being the only times in which I probably should have died, and as I mentioned in another episode, when I was a child my father tried to drown me in freezing cold water. When I was a child I also had pneumonia and whooping cough at the same time, which is not a good combination, and while I have no idea whether or not it could have been fatal, it was not fun at all.
Shortly after I got my driver’s license I took a road trip with my father to deliver a vehicle and supplies from Arizona to Idaho, and my father loaded everything heavy in the truck I was driving. The route we traveled took us over several mountain ranges and as we were coming down the mountains in Nevada I had the strongest feeling that I should not trust the brakes and would shift down as much as possible to slow the vehicle without using the brakes and I only braked enough to keep the engine from racing to fast as it held the vehicle back.
Both my father and I had a CB radio in our vehicles and my father kept yelling at me over the radio to drive faster and to keep up with him, but I was unwilling to take the curves any faster and I was unwilling to go down the grade any faster than I was able to go up the other side, which is always a wise choice. When you have a load that so encumbered the vehicle that you can’t climb the grade with any speed than you should never go down the grade any faster than you went up it or you risk burning out your brakes and having a runaway vehicle.
Just before we got to Twin Falls, Idaho my father pulled off the road onto the shoulder and I was pulling in behind him when my brake pedal suddenly went to the floor. I quickly checked my mirror and if I were to veer back onto the road to avoid a collision with my father, who was at this time standing behind his truck, I would have been cutting off a eighteen wheeler and would likely have been killed. Not knowing what else to do, I red lined the engine so I could get it into first gear and then released the clutch, which killed the engine and stopped the vehicle only a few feet from making my father a much shorter man.
I expected my father to yell at me, but he didn’t. At the time I did not know why, but I later learned the reason, which was he had made a cut in the brake line and anticipated it breaking when I was going around the curves on the way down the mountain. My father never cared much for me and was always looking for a way to get me out of the picture, especially as I got oldrer, but he was afraid that if I just left I would send the police after him for the things I suspected he was doing to the rest of the family, and for the things he had done to me.
When I was nineteen I almost froze to death neck deep in mud, and while a lot of the events that led up to the event are irrelevant I am going to tell the whole story anyway because I think many of you will find it entertaining. At the time, I worked at a fast food restaurant in Pocatello, Idaho and one of my co-workers set me up on a blind date with a girl that they knew. I didn’t really want to go on a date at the time because the last attempted relationship had been a dumpster fire, and the event we were supposed to go to was the night before I was going duck hunting. The way things were set up, I felt like I was obligated to go on the date.
Shortly after picking this girl up she started talking about how she wanted to get high again but her probation officer would send her back to jail if she had a test come back positive. “Great, a real winner,” I thought to myself, and I immediately started thinking of ways to end the date early without offending her. I have to admit that she was a perfectly nice person and was every quite pretty, but I was extremely judgmental and wanted nothing to do with a girl who had done drugs of been in jail. I was judging her things she had done, as if I were some great catch, and instead of trying to be her friend I just wanted to get rid of her as soon as possible. I am not saying that I should have married her, but she could have used a friend and I should have been glad that she was no longer using and was turning her life around, regardless of why she was doing it. A lot of people can’t quit on their own and need help, sometimes from the system.
In spite of myself I had a great time and, after dropping her off, I got home around 1AM and loaded all of my equipment into my truck before going to bed.
The reason I was so set against her was because the Mormon Church teaches that we should only date people who we can see ourselves marrying, and that we should only marry in the temple. This girl, while officially a member of the Church, had not attended in years and did not believe it to be true and was not considered worthy by the church for her past, her failure to attend church, and her doubts in the Church. Since the only approved reason to date was to find a person to get married to in the temple, there was no justification in dating her, and the Church officially teaches that “apostates” should be avoided as they will cause you to doubt the Church, once I learned she was firmly against ever going back to the Church I had no interest in being her friend. I am ashamed of myself for being such a judgmental and self-righteous person. I truly hope that she is doing well in life and that she found someone who respects her and loves her. She most definitely had a crush on me, but I made sure she knew that unless she came back to Church it was a no go.
Anyhow, after going to bed at 1AM I got up at 5AM so that I could be at the American Falls Reservoir and have my decoys set up before daybreak. When I got to the lake the water was frozen to about fifty feet out from the shore, so I left my little aluminum boat at the waters edge, along with my decoys and shotgun, and parked my truck. I got into my boat and slid it across the frozen lake to open water much the way one would launch a sled.
During the course of the day I shot one duck, but someone else’s dog swam out and carried it away. I had an interview with a construction company that evening so I headed back to where I had launched my boat form so I could return to town in time to shower and go to the interview. When I was about fifty feet out from the shore my boat hit bottom and I realized that the water had been frozen that morning because it was only a few inches deep.
“No problem,” I thought, “I am wearing waders, so I will just get out of the boat and drag it to shore.”
If that was not the dumbest thing I have ever done, it was definitely in the top ten. I made it about three steps before I sank to my waist in thick mud. The more I struggled the deeper I sank, and I was starting to freak out. Not knowing what else to do, when the water was about an inch form coming over the top of my chest high waders, I pulled the boat closer and put my arm over the edge to keep from sinking any farther. I tried and tried but could not pull myself out of the mud into the boat.
I am not sure how long I was stuck in the mud, but I definitely had a lot of time to think about it and, unlike the rollover I would have a few months later, I was certain that I was going to die. As the sun started its descent into the western sky the water started to freeze around me and I had the picture in my mind of someone finding me the next morning with only my head and arms sticking above the ice, frozen to death. “What a way to go,” I thought to myself.
After at least an hour of feeling sorry for myself, knowing that I was going to die, I decided to pray for help. With about fifteen minutes of daylight remaining, I saw a dead insect floating on the water and thought about how they shed their skin to grow, and that gave me the idea to climb out of my waders into the boat. It was fairly easy to climb out of the waders into the boat until only one foot was in the mud, but when the mud collapsed around my foot it felt like a car was sitting on me and I thought I might pull my foot off before getting it out of the waders that were being compressed by the mud.
After I was in the boat it was fairly easy to pull the waders into the boat behind me. I then used the oars to pry the boat out of the mud and back into open water. After a few feet the oar broke and I hit myself in the forehead before falling off the side of the boat Into the mud. I managed to get back into the boat without sinking, but I was covered head to foot in thick sticky mud.
By the time I made it to the nearest concrete boat ramp the sun had long since set, and the mud had hardened on my face and skin. Since I had been wearing boot foot waders I did not have any shoes in the boat and had to walk barefoot back to my truck.
I thought that as soon as I got back to my truck it would be over, but alas, I was gravely mistaken. Where I had parked was not near as solid as I had thought and once the ground thawed my truck sank to the axles in mud. My phone was in my truck so, after I put my shoes on, I called a co-worker to help me get out of the mud. It was nearly five in the morning when my truck was again on solid ground, and after paying my co-worker for his time, I drove to the ramp to pick up my boat. Just in case anyone is wondering, I took my shotgun with me when I went to get my truck and did not leave it unattended in my boat. I might not be smart, but I am responsible.
After loading up my boat I woke a local home owner to ask if I could use their water hose to wash some of the mud off. It did not occur to me then, but it looks like given the circumstance the guy would have let me use his shower instead of spraying me off in the middle of winter with cold water.
On the way home I fell asleep at the wheel, and I swear it felt like someone slapped me across the face, which woke me up quite suddenly. Had I woke up a second later I would have gone off the road. The rest of the trip I drove with the radio blasting and the windows down.
If you think this sums up my close calls, you are mistaken. However, I don’t have time to list all of the many times in my life where I could, and probably should, have died. When I was around twelve my family was traveling through Utah during hunting season and a bullet went through the side of our camper and had I not bent down to pick up something I had dropped it would have hit me in the head.
While driving my first car a boulder fell from the cliff and missed the top of my car by less than a foot, and had I been driving slightly slower I probably would have died. I have at least ten more stories of close calls I could mention as well, but as I said, I don’t have time.
As regular readers or listeners know, I was a bus driver for a long time. The trip that made me decide I was through driving a bus was when I had a bus load of teenage girls and just before entering Colorado from Nebraska an eighteen wheeler crossed the median and we almost had a head on collision.
I’d had, by that point, so many close calls while driving a bus that I figured it was like Russian roulette and that my number would come up sooner or later and decided to change my profession before it die. Of course, assuming the reason I did not die in any of my close calls was because God had saved me, than it really doesn’t matter what I am doing for work, when it is my time it is my time. My other reasons for wanting to get out of bus driving was that I was never home and did not have much of a life, and the close call with the truck was just the last straw.
I am not sure why I am still here, but I am glad that I am. When I was younger I was certain that I would not live to see my thirtieth birthday, so when I woke up on my thirtieth birthday I said aloud, “Holy Cow, I made it!” I don’t know what my purpose is or why God wants me around, but I think, or at least hope, that this podcast and blog is part of it.
I have had people contact me and say that this podcast and blog has helped them, and if it has in any way helped you I would love to hear from you. Thanks for being part of this journey with me. God bless.