An accident that nearly killed a man ended up saving his life.
Theirs was a love story out of a movie. Two kids from New York who met in Virginia Beach while on vacation. She was mortified about the smell of the new perm she had just gotten and refused to make eye contact with anyone. He saw her and was determined he was going to see her again.
Later that week, they were both at a popular Virginia Beach destination. The crowd parted, and their eyes met . . . and it was like the rest of the world melted away. They spent the rest of the evening walking along the beach and talking, and when she got home from the vacation, there were flowers waiting for her. By August they were dating, and by Christmas, they were engaged. A big Catholic wedding came the following August, and their fairy tale romance was complete.
Then the practicalities of life set in. Ed was determined to take good care of this amazing woman JoAnn, who was now his wife. He was working hard as a New York City police officer. JoAnn was working for Gulf Industries. Every Sunday, JoAnn attended Mass, as she had done her entire life. Ed kept working. Raised with the perspective that one only had to go to church until one was confirmed, Ed had a skewed view of the church and of God. On the job, he saw so many things that made him question God. Church was fine for JoAnn, but Ed had no need for it.
Time passed, and their perfect family grew by first one and then a second little girl. Ed worked harder than ever to make sure that his girls lacked for nothing. He would stop in between jobs to change a shirt and grab lunch. JoAnn and the girls continued attending the Catholic Church. Ed kept working, switching to a Long Island police department.
Ironically, it was a Sunday morning when Ed and JoAnn’s life would change forever. Ed was on the side of the road, assisting a motorist whose car had broken down, when he was hit by a Volkswagen that strayed off onto the shoulder. Ed crashed into the windshield of the VW and then was thrown 30 feet from the car. He slid another 30 feet before crumpling on the ground. While he remembers nothing of the incident, eyewitnesses told of the horrific sight as the emergency crews hurried to save one of their own.
Blissfully unaware of the situation, JoAnn was enjoying lunch out with a friend. Frantic to find her—these were the days before everyone had a cell phone—another friend called every restaurant in the area to locate her. Moments after finding her, a police officer met JoAnn at the restaurant and hurried her to his vehicle. Despite her many questions, he remained silent as they sped to the hospital.
JoAnn arrived to find Ed alive, but broken. His left leg was crushed right below the knee; his right knee was dislocated to the point that it was dangling by a thread. His shoulder blade was broken, and he had suffered a T-10 vertebrae fracture in his spinal column. Monday’s surgery was able to repair the damage to the right knee but put Ed in a full to the hip cast. His right shoulder was restricted to a sling, and would be completely non-weight bearing for the next four months.
One of the first things that Ed asked was to see a priest. He remembers thinking that if God had allowed him to live through such a death-defying ordeal, there must be a reason for it. He had a strong sense that he needed to talk about God.
Over the course of the next year and a half, JoAnn struggled with the intense task of in-home care for her husband. A petite woman, JoAnn somehow managed to take care of Ed on a day-to-day basis, tending to his every need in addition to continuing to raise their two girls, now six and three.
As he began to get out, Ed started attending the Catholic Church with JoAnn and the girls but found himself frustrated with the message he was hearing. He knew he needed to find something else, but he wasn’t sure what that was.
In the midst of his search, their daughter, Jennifer, became quite ill. A neighbor came over and prayed with JoAnn, telling her words from the Bible to comfort her. JoAnn was amazed and dismayed to learn that after all of her years attending Catholic school and faithfully attending Catholic Church, she didn’t have any idea of what the Bible taught. The neighbor invited the family to attend her church, but Ed and JoAnn were not comfortable with the tambourines and dancing. They knew they needed to keep looking.
Invited to attend a Lutheran church, Ed and JoAnn found themselves in a setting that was more comfortable. They attended the adult orientation class. The more JoAnn learned, the angrier she became. She was angry that she didn’t know any of the things she was being taught from the Bible. She was angry with herself for never questioning how she was raised. The pastor comforted her by telling her that she had a childlike faith, and those words gave JoAnn a sense of peace.
Ed, meanwhile, found himself wanting to know why about everything. It wasn’t until he read a Bible verse that spoke of man’s inability to understand the ways of God that he finally found peace.
They continued at this Lutheran church for two years, until they decided to move to Tennessee. They knew no one there, but every door that needed to open happened at just the right time. Trusting that this was the right place for them, they confidently moved away from their families and all that was familiar.
They found a Lutheran church nearby. Eager to continue their walk in a Bible-teaching church, Ed and JoAnn got involved. As time went on, Ed grew increasingly uncomfortable. The church was making decisions on which parts of Scripture to follow and which ones not to follow. Ed questioned that decision. He wondered how error-filled men knew which parts to keep and which parts to discard.
Feeling that they were not yet in the best place for their family, Ed and JoAnn moved to Clarksville, Tennessee. But another Lutheran church also made them uncomfortable. They looked again and found Beautiful Savior.
At once they knew they had finally found their home. They heard God’s Word preached from the pulpit and spoken throughout the service. They became active in Bible study, and it was in a Bible class one evening that Ed, that tough New York City police officer who kept his feelings close to the vest, opened up and shared his story. Laughing sheepishly, he said, “Who would have thought that God would use a VW to get my attention? I am so glad that he did, because that accident saved my life.”
Pamela Holz is a member at Beautiful Savior, Clarksville, Tennessee.
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Author: Pamela Holz
Volume 103, Number 6
Issue: June 2016
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