Written October 6, 1993 concerning the events in July 1970.
My mother was lying on the wooden board and the car was no longer making that screaming noise it did when I ran for help. The smell of burning rubber was still in the air. All around me was the commotion of ambulance drivers and state troopers checking out the scene. The paramedics were attending two of my brothers, but I could tell they would be all right. It was my mother who looked the worst. I went over to my mother and tried to clear the tears from my eyes.
“Mom, can you get up?” She just laid there and for a moment and I thought she didn’t hear me.
“Mom? Are you ok?” I asked.
“No” was her reply. That really scared me because I had never heard my mother say things were not OK. That was not like her at all. All my short life she always tried to be positive, but not now.
I tried to heal her like we had been taught in church. I though very clearly “Mommy is created in God’s image and likeness. She is not hurt, she is OK.” I said it over and over, but my mother just lay there on the stretcher.
“Mommy you are made in God’s image and likeness and you are OK,” I told her.
She said thanks, but kept on lying there. I didn’t know why. In church they told us that when we were sick or hurt that if we held to the truth we would be OK. But my mother wasn’t OK. Why did she not get up? It must have been some sort of failure on my part, because she continued to lie there on the side of the road.
I tried not to cry but I couldn’t help it. Tears welled up in my eyes and I knew I wasn’t supposed to cry. But my mother was still hurt. I wanted to hug her but they told me not to touch her.
Another ambulance came down the road and hit the breaks when the driver realized she was passing the accident. She tried to pull over and when she did, the ambulance flipped upside down, just as our own car had done.
We were traveling up to see Granny get married and on the way we took the wrong road. As was the habit of our family, whenever we got lost or took the wrong road, Dad or Mom would say “we’re taking a short cut. It’s longer, but bumpier.” This always seemed to make things better.
So on our “short cut” we were trying to make it to Highway 59. We had gone through Trinity, Texas, and as we did, I remember pointing out the hospital. Why I would do such a thing was beyond me. We didn’t believe there was a need for hospitals. After all, we were Christian Scientist and Christian Scientists know the truth. Hospitals are merely recognitions of error, and since we had the truth, we never acknowledged error.
I was sitting in the front seat in between my mother, who was driving and my father. David was in the back seat and Scooter and John were in the back, back seat of our 1969 Pontiac Station Wagon.
As we drove down the highway, I was playing copilot for Mom. Every speed limit sign we would pass, I would announce the speed so my mother would not drive too fast or slow. I had just told her the speed limit was 70 mph.
The hot Texas sun had melted the tar that was holding down the road. When we hit the freshly paved road, it was similar to driving on marbles and the rocks began pounding the bottom of the car. It was loud.
“Velda, pull over,” my father yelled.
As she began to pull over, the front wheels dropped off the road. There was no shoulder to the road leaving an 18-inch drop. The car slid sideways and began to roll. I remember seeing a white fence just before I shut my eyes. The white fence turned on its side and we began pounding down the road. I thought it would never stop.
I could hear glass breaking and the sound of metal slamming against the pavement.
When I opened my eyes, the windshield was folded in and was only inches from my chest. One look at my mother and I knew she was hurt and that I should not touch her.
The car was screaming. The speedometer read 120 mph, but we were not moving. The car had landed in a ditch and the tires weren’t touching the ground. I didn’t know what to do. Mom was not moving, and neither was Dad. Why? Dad was supposed to take care of things, but he wasn’t doing anything at all.
I tried to move, but couldn’t. David was already out of the car. He seemed to be the only one awake other than myself. I released my seatbelt and climbed over my father.
“Dad, help,” we said. “We’ve got to get dad out.” We both grabbed a hold of his arm and pulled. Our hope was that if we could get him out of the car, he would wake up and tell us what to do. That had always been Dad’s role. He was the commander, the captain of our family. Yet, he wouldn’t wake up and because of his seatbelt, we couldn’t pull him free.
The seatbelts had been my idea. Mom had taught me that it was the rules to wear the seatbelts. That being the case, I made sure everyone had on their seatbelts when we got in the car. Now it seemed the seatbelt was working against us.
“We need to go for help,” David said. After looking at Scooter and John, who were both laying in a ditch. I knew that it was up to David and me. I didn’t know what to do. Providentially there were two houses right there where the car came to a stop. David ran for one, and I ran for the other. By now, I was in tears. I was scared like I had never been before. For some reason, David was cool and calm and at this point, he was calling the shots. David took the house on the right and I took the one on the left.
I ran as hard as my 9-year-old legs could and fell upon the door. I pounded hard as I could, but no one would answer. “Please help,” I cried. “Somebody please help.” But there was no one home. I began to panic. What if there was no one to help? What then? That fear was monstrous.
David had more success than I did. His house held a family. The father ran out and was heading towards our car. I couldn’t look. The man’s son came and took my hand and asked if I needed anything. He took me inside their home and gave me some water. I cried, even though I knew I should not, the tears came uncontrollably. I didn’t understand. I knew that I was supposed to be a little man but I couldn’t help it. The boy held my hand and said everything would be all right. But somehow, I knew it wouldn’t be.
His brother came in and told me my father wanted me outside.
I went back to the car. It was rumpled. The hood was smashed and the roof was pointed. The engine was no longer running and I could here my little brother, John, crying as he lay in the ditch. It was OK for him to cry, but I was older and wasn’t supposed to cry. I tried to be like Dad. Scooter was next to him holding a bandage to his ear. There was blood everywhere.
My father was now awake.
“Timmy, where is Stokely?” my father yelled at me.
“He’s not with us.”
“Timmy, where is he?” he shouted.
“He didn’t come with us. We left him with the Stouts.”
“Are you sure?” Why didn’t he believe me? Didn’t he remember that just a few hours ago, we dropped Stokely off with the Stouts? Stokely was the baby. Less than a year old, and my parents felt it would be better if he was left at home for the wedding.
“Are you sure?” my father yelled again. I told him I was sure and that he didn’t come with us.
Then I saw Mom.
Her body was lifeless as she lay on a board that the ambulance men had placed her on. I knew she was hurt. That is when I began to pray. In Sunday school, they taught us how to pray and how to heal and I knew God would listen to me if I prayed. But she just lay there and wouldn’t get up.
They finally loaded Mom, John and Scooter into an ambulance. I wanted to ride with them, but they wouldn’t let me. They closed the door and I felt like my family was leaving me behind.
John thought his back was hurt and Scooter almost lost an ear. Both of them had been thrown out the back window when the car rolled. Only David, Dad and I were uninjured.
A stranger took us to the hospital we had passed not 30 minutes before and left us in the waiting room. Dad immediately headed for the emergency room, leaving David and I alone.
I felt very scared and alone so I prayed some more that mommy and Scooter and John would all be OK. I asked David if he was scared and he said yes. But he didn’t feel like talking much. He never did. He was the quiet one and now he was even quieter than usual. I tried to get him to say something encouraging, but he wouldn’t. I wanted someone to just hold me and tell me everything would be all right. But no one did.
It seemed like I was in that waiting room for hours. Dad was with Mom, and Scooter was having his ears sewn up. John had to be X-rayed; because they thought his back might be injured. And Mom was undergoing all kinds of things I didn’t understand.
Dad finally came out to use the phone. I asked him how Mom was doing, but he didn’t know and had to call Granny and tell her we wouldn’t be there in time for the wedding.
I can remember him telling Uncle Bill that Granny should go on with the wedding, we wouldn’t be there, because he didn’t know how serious mother’s injuries were.
Then Dad left and went back to be with Mom, leaving David and me alone in the waiting room. Why did he have to leave us alone there? Why couldn’t we be with Mommy too? Why did he have to leave? I had all these questions, but there was no one who could answer them and no one to try.
There was a fish tank in the waiting room and I liked fish tanks. But this one didn’t seem to have the magic effects that most fish tanks do. So I just sat next to David and waited. It was an eternity.
After what seemed like an eternity and then some, my Uncle Bill came up from Houston to help. He was one of my favorite uncles and I was hoping that he would offer some encouraging words as well. But he didn’t.
We drove back out to the site of the wreck and I asked him if we could look for my glasses. They were a brand new pair. I had only had glasses for a couple of months and I thought they made me special, because not everyone got to wear glasses and I did. Now they were gone.
We stopped where we had the wreck and Uncle Bill began walking the site. He found that a construction sign that was intended to warn us had been knocked over. He pulled out his camera and began taking pictures. We walked the site again. All the while, I was trying to find my glasses.
He then drove us to where the car was kept.
“Maybe we can find my glasses here,” I said optimistically.
“Boy, give it up,” he said with the tone of disgust. “We’re not going to find your glasses. They’re not important.”
Maybe not, but they were to me.
We drove back to the hospital in silence. And then back to Houston where we spent the night in Pops’ house. Pops was a Christian Scientist as well and I really like Pops. But he wasn’t there. We were left to their dark house alone, with Grandma. I didn’t sleep very well and the next day they finally told us that my mother would probably never walk again. That was difficult to take, especially in view of our belief system. She should be healed by now, but she wasn’t. I didn’t know it at the time, but from that moment on, I don’t think I really believed in Christian Science anymore.
And then came the silence. Since the accident was an event full of error, and we were to deny error, we denied the existence of that error even though so many things in our lives screamed of its existence. That day became known as “the accident.” And it was never openly acknowledge.
Yet with every treatment that Mom underwent, with every new setback, the reality of that accident shouted its reality. It would not go away, no matter how many prayers, how many times we tried to “correct” our thinking, the accident lived with us.
That hot-summer day in June, God did hear my prayers. But I believe the answer was “no.” His very character would not let Him answer my request positively. To do so, would have allowed me to believe the very lie I had been taught in Sunday school. That being the case, and out of His love for me, He said “no.”
So I praise God that the answer to my prayer that day was no, even though my mother lived in a wheel chair for the second 35 years of her life. I don’t mean that in a spiteful way. I did pray that Jesus would heal my mother, I just didn’t want Christian Science to heal my mother. I wanted her to see Christian Science as it really is and see their leader as she truly was, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Christian Science is not of God, it is of Satan.
That day was a dark day in my life and still haunts me from time to time. I truly believe that God was in control on that day, and the He is still sovereign. What seemed like a tragic event so long ago, amidst the smell of burning rubber, broken glass, and a crumpled car, was God’s sovereign plan being unfolded in my life. And today, I am a Christian because of His sovereign plan, not a Christian Scientist. Amen and amen.
UPDATE: Just an explanatory note for those who don’t understand Christian Science. In Christian Science something is bad or sinful only as long as the “thought” of something bad and sinful continues to exist. Therefore the idea was to quit thinking about the “accident” and healing would quickly follow. This is why we never spoke of the “accident” and did our best to make it not real by not thinking about it. But the realness of it, lived with us every day and it was quite obvious that the truths of Christian Science, were lies.