While my parents and I were driving home on snowy roads from a dinner celebrating my wedding engagement, I looked up from the backseat when I heard my dad say with fear in his voice, “I don’t think they are going to stop!” I watched helplessly as a distracted driver ran a stop sign and T-boned our car. The dizzying force of the hit pushed us into oncoming traffic, which resulted in the loud bang of a head-on collision.
Horns blaring, metal crushing, tires sloshing as they slid in the snow—my ears were overwhelmed with sound. The smell of car exhaust and the glare of headlights in the windows were testimony to the trauma of what had just happened. “Daddy, I hurt…” was all I could get out before my body began burning with pain. Emergency personnel were called to the scene, and I was extracted from the car and put on a spinal board. I was in critical condition swimming in the painful unknown—all only twelve weeks before my wedding.
A collapsed lung, a detached esophagus, and other internal injuries put me at risk of not surviving the night. I had a prayer in my heart from the moment right before the accident to when the doctors put me to sleep for the surgery. I told Heavenly Father, “Please, I’m not ready to die yet. I’m getting married. I have so much to live for.” My beloved fiancé, Justin, came to the emergency room so we could say our goodbyes before I was taken away for immediate surgery.
During the surgery, nurses came to Justin in the waiting room and told him to be prepared for the worst because things were not going well. Gratefully, I did survive the surgery but was in a medicated sleep for another day before I was stable enough to be revived. Then I spent a week in the intensive care unit before I could be moved to the trauma care unit. While I was grateful to have survived, a long road of recovery awaited me. This special time of my life preparing for my wedding was completely upended. I felt powerless to do anything to help myself and shed many tears at how lost and disoriented I felt.
The pain and emotional unrest I experienced over the next few months pushed me to think more deeply about my faith in God’s plan. As I navigated difficult decisions and endured the healing process, I grew to better appreciate priesthood power, the magnitude of blessings that come with honoring covenants, and the priceless, motivating influence of Heavenly Father’s love.
Peace through Priesthood Blessings
I was in a lot of pain during my ambulance transport from the crash site to the hospital, and I was very scared. Once we arrived, tests were started and medications given, and I was moved to a quiet space where my brother-in-law and my fiancé could give me a priesthood blessing. Shortly after the blessing, the extent of my injuries was identified, and I was transported via ambulance to another hospital for surgery.
I was given multiple blessings of healing and comfort during my time at the hospital, and my heart burns with love and gratitude for those blessings and the people who were ready, willing, and able to administer to me in my time of need.
Some blessings were for my mind to rest so I wouldn’t be overcome with stress, while others were to find comfort from my fears. I suffered from nightmares and would wake up terrified. I often felt alone and like no one really understood how much I was hurting physically and mentally. Because of the tubes I was hooked up to, I was especially lonely because I couldn’t even communicate with those who came to sit with me. But then in a blessing I’d be reminded that Christ knew my pain because He’d felt it, and that was a great comfort to me. While many blessings were in regard to my physical healing, those given for comfort were just as crucial to my recovery.
Love from the Other Side
The first night after the accident was chaos. I was scared and I felt alone after I was separated from my fiancé, who I feared I’d never see again. I was also worried about my parents since I didn’t know if they were OK after the accident. I made it through that first night, but then spent many nights isolated at the hospital with only nurses coming in to administer medications. Nightmares of my trauma haunted me, and I wished someone could have been with me. I later learned that my parents had sustained minor injuries, and while they had been discharged from the hospital the morning after the accident, I was still worried; I was so powerless to help them. But amidst all of that stress, while I lay healing in the intensive care unit, I had an incredible experience.
One night while I was having flashback nightmares of the car accident, I distinctly remember seeing the moment right before our car was hit the first time. I watched the yellow headlights coming for us, but then I felt someone get between me and the car door and cradle my head for the hit. I instinctively knew it was my grandmother and that she held me through both hits of the crash. Later, when I was alone at night in the hospital and would wake up scared and disoriented, I’d pray for comfort and would feel my grandma’s spirit with me. I am so grateful for covenants that bind families together, and I know those on the other side of the veil are lovingly watching over us.
The Power of the Sealing Ordinance
The accident was only twelve weeks before I planned on getting married. Because I couldn’t eat, walk, or even breathe on my own at first, people repeatedly asked if I was going to cancel my wedding plans. After already going through the trauma of saying goodbye to my beloved in the hospital, even postponing our sealing was the furthest thing from my desires. But my injuries proved too extensive to go forward with our original plan.
We planned to be sealed on March 17th and then do a ring ceremony with a reception on the 19th. By the end of February, I was out of the hospital and felt strong enough to attend ward temple night, but I almost passed out while there. We decided I wasn’t strong enough and we needed to postpone the sealing. We were civilly married on March 19th, but it didn’t feel quite complete without our sealing.
I believe the accident helped me gain a better insight into the value of eternal marriage. My husband and I even more urgently wanted to be sealed for time and all eternity because we learned firsthand what it’s like to almost lose the one you love. For Justin and me, being sealed became a top priority in our marriage. We sought opportunities to learn more about the temple sealing. We studied scriptures and talks and asked questions about eternal marriage and specifically the sealing ordinance. I believe our relationship with one another as well as our bond with God was strengthened as we actively sought understanding of the promises and blessings relating to this ordinance. Because we waited to be sealed, I was able to have a clear enough head to focus on the promises I was making and I understood them better, which was very special to me.
The Motivating Influence of the Savior’s Love
Trying to remain positive throughout the healing process has been a daily challenge. The rollercoaster of emotions I experience can often feel like the wild ups and downs of a ride at a theme park. But when I’m in my darkest moments, God reminds me that He is there.
As a bride who wanted to look beautiful on her wedding day, I felt hideous with the almost nine-inch incision site along my ribs, the drain tube scars, and the scarring on my hips from where the seat belt strap cut and burned my skin. I cried multiple times leading up to my wedding day about how ugly I felt. But through prayers and the support of those who love me, I was blessed with comfort and confidence; I came to know that brokenness can be beautiful.
While I have made a lot of progress, some of the damage done to my body will be permanent. Unfortunately, this means I will never be able to breathe again the way I once did because my diaphragm is damaged around where I had a collapsed lung. Nor will I ever be able to eat the way I did before; I have dysmotility from my esophagus being ripped off in the accident, which means I can’t swallow normally.
At times I get physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted with the process of living like this, and I find myself focusing less on the parts of me that have healed. For example, initially, my doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to have children, which broke my heart. But with multiple treatments and enough time, issues were resolved, and my reproductive organs recovered. While I’m grateful for this miracle in my life, it is easy to become fixated on the permanent damage to my body. Depression settles like a weighted darkness that is difficult to describe with words. In these moments of despair, the Lord shows me He is there. Sometimes I see Him through a random act of kindness from a stranger or a tender moment shared with my family. Most often it is a moment of remembrance for how the Lord has been with me. I could be doing something as normal as washing dishes and a memory of a spiritual experience will pop into my mind along with the thought, “I am with you; I haven’t forgotten,” which brings me to tears every time. I know I’m imprinted on His hands, and He has never forgotten me (see Isaiah 49:16).
I’ve also found allowing myself to cry has helped immensely. At first, I was upset at myself for crying and being frustrated with my situation. I’d feel guilty for how I was feeling because others had it worse. Something I really took comfort in knowing is that Christ accepts us as we are wherever we are in our journey. He is the only one who truly knows what we are feeling. I’m allowed to cry and feel pain, and He’s not going to judge me for having a hard day. He’s not going to say that He had it worse or “at least you made it out alive.” He lets me cry, then I pray for comfort, cry more, and feel the warmth of His love encircle me in a hug that says, “I know it hurts; I’ve felt it too.” Just knowing that He knows and understands helps give me strength.
I have a strong testimony of the Lord’s love and ability to perform miracles. I hope that the car accident and the events that followed will help me always remember that God is in charge and that He’s got me no matter what I’m facing. I want to continue growing closer to Him as I continue with my healing process. Faith brings miracles and for that, I’m forever grateful.