And look at him now
Sunday April 19th 2009, 5:32 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

In church today, the women’s group was having a discussion about the value of service.

One friend, probably prompted by a wedding invitation that had just arrived in the mail, brought up the memory of John T’s accident.  Of all the things people had done to rally around his family.  Of how much of a difference it had made to everybody to be actively involved in praying and in reaching out to try to make the burden easier on the parents, who were driving to Children’s Hospital in Oakland, 70 minutes each way across the worst of Bay Area traffic,  every day for three months.  (This is before they added Lucile Packard Children’s onto Stanford.)  Of how close everybody felt to everybody.

I looked around and realized how few of the people in the room had lived here long enough to carry memories of that terrible time.  John had been 12, crossing a busy street near his home one afternoon on the green (his brother was with him) and they had been hit by an older woman who was too drunk to know she’d hit them, much less that her light had been red.

His brother had a broken leg, but John…  Somehow, he was still alive, at least, but there was no medical expectation that he would ever be anything more than that again.

But he was one of the lucky few who beat the odds. He woke up from his coma after six weeks, not remembering even his family. He had to relearn everything.

They said he wouldn’t walk, they said he wouldn’t talk, but he did.  Twenty years later, he still has a slight limp and it frustrates him that he’s a little slow at times, but he’s a good, kind soul, the kind who, when you meet, you instantly know you are in the presence of a friend.

There was intense joy when he was able to go off to college, and now those invitations showing up are happily announcing his coming wedding.

The woman teaching today’s lesson, someone younger who hadn’t been here back in the day, thought she was going to change the subject now. But I raised my hand and told a part of the story the others didn’t know:

About ten or twelve years afterwards, I was stopped in the dark on that same road within a block of where John had been hit.  It was a drunk driver checkpoint, and cops were checking out each car one by one.  There was quite a backup.

I thought about it. It took me a few days. But the feeling would not let go of me, and I finally sat down and wrote a letter and put it in the mailbox to the police department in town, telling them thank you for that checkpoint and telling them  it was so important to me that they do that. I knew they got a lot of flack for those, and I wanted to be a voice of support.

And then I said why.  I ended it by saying John had beaten the odds and was in college now.

I got a letter back. It was from the then-chief of police. He told me this:

I am the cop who had to go knock on that child’s door and tell his parents what had happened to him.

And I never knew how it all came out.

Thank you.

28 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Your blog posts are always uplifting and frequently thought provoking. Thank-you for taking the time to write. I am so glad you are feeling better.

Comment by debra 04.19.09 @ 7:22 pm

Thank you for the grateful tears I am now crying. I can not begin to tell you how much I receive from your blog. Thank You!

Comment by TripletMom 04.19.09 @ 8:09 pm

Wonderful story. Just plain wonderful. Thanks for telling it here.

Comment by LynnH 04.19.09 @ 8:22 pm

Wow, what a story! We read about so much tragedy, that it is comforting to read a success story.

And I’m supposed to follow that with something funny? Well…


One Sunday morning, the pastor noticed little Alex standing in the foyer of the church staring up at a large plaque. It was covered with names and small American flags mounted on either side of it. The six-year old had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the pastor walked up, stood beside the little boy, and said quietly, “Good morning Alex.” 

“Good morning Pastor,” he replied, still focused on the plaque. “Pastor, what is this?” The pastor said, “Well son, it’s a memorial to all the young men and women who died in the service.” Soberly, they just stood together, staring at the large plaque. Finally, little Alex’s voice, barely audible and trembling with fear asked, “Which service, the 8:30 or the 10:45?”

Comment by Don Meyer 04.19.09 @ 9:01 pm

Wow! What a story. It brought tears to my eyes.

Comment by StellaMM 04.19.09 @ 9:56 pm

I know that happens with the Rescue Squad all the time – the guys are at accidents and most of the time have no idea how things turn out –

God works in mysterious ways and how wonderful that you listened when he spoke to you to write the letter

Comment by rho 04.19.09 @ 10:05 pm

I am so glad you are able to go to church again :-}
Today I met with a former member of a spiritual group I belonged to years ago. It was great to know we are still ‘family”.

Comment by Diana Troldahl 04.19.09 @ 10:16 pm

You have got to be the most guided person I have ever had the pleasure to “know” Alison. Either that or you are simply the one most willing to act on the guidance you get….but either way, the things you do touch so many.

Comment by Marlene 04.19.09 @ 11:00 pm

Well, I have lurked for a few months, having discovered your blog from another knitter’s link, and keep finding myself coming back regularly to see how you are doing, to wish you well, to read your thoughts and to get deeply touched, like today. Thank you for posting. Thank you for that positive loving spirit you so consistently choose to send out into the world. We need more loving souls like yours.

Comment by Beckett 04.19.09 @ 11:10 pm

thank you for Listening, and thank you for Acting. and thank you for your example.

Comment by Tola 04.20.09 @ 4:16 am

Thank you for taking the time to write, to share. Life on the Internet is better because of you, no doubt…
I’ll pray the wedding goes well and that they have a long and happy marriage!

Comment by Suzanne 04.20.09 @ 4:51 am

Oh, what a beautiful ending. Isn’t it amazing how things evolve. So glad you wrote to the police department and the officer learned of the outcome. Thank you for sharing!

Comment by Joansie 04.20.09 @ 4:53 am

With tears in my eyes, all I can say is thank you.

Comment by Jody M 04.20.09 @ 5:38 am

What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it.

Comment by Eileen 04.20.09 @ 5:55 am

Tears again… But good ones! Yay for that Police Chief.

Comment by Channon 04.20.09 @ 6:01 am

A moment of grace when you sent that letter. Those that work with society at their worse moments often never know what happen.
After my divorce I, on a spur of the moment, called my lawyer and asked her “Michele, you want to know how things are going?” She drew in a ragged breath and said “Afton, NOONE ever calls me to tell how their life is going after the divorce. They often refuse to catch my eye at the supermarket because I remind them of a very bad time. I would VERY MUCH like to know how you are doing!”

Comment by afton 04.20.09 @ 6:08 am

So glad you wrote that letter. I was a paramedic before I went on to become an RN. I seldom knew my patients’ outcomes (unless I read an obituary). I’m sure it meant a lot to your Chief of Police to read about John’s recovery.

Comment by Barbara-Kay 04.20.09 @ 7:11 am

thanks so much for sharing this story. Once again, you bring me to tears and put sy small problems in perspective for me. So glad to know you are up and about again!
As a member of a 12-step program, I know that service to others has made huge changes in my life–and has, in fact, saved my life.
In this world that focuses so much on “taking care of me first,” it’s great to see reminders that being useful to God and each other is a pretty good way to live!

Comment by Janice 04.20.09 @ 7:14 am

I have goosebumps. It’s so neat you not only thought of writing the letter but that you actually did it…a happy ending for everyone involved…thank you for sharing, Alison… I think maybe I have a few letters I need to write now.
Hope you’re doing well,

Comment by Abby 04.20.09 @ 8:52 am

Wow. And *this* is why it’s so important to listen to that little voice that directs us to do things like that — it matters.

Comment by Jocelyn 04.20.09 @ 9:33 am

I just edited the description of John a little: I realized today I’d let the memories of the grief of that time get in the way of telling better who he is now. Noted and corrected.

Comment by AlisonH 04.20.09 @ 10:07 am

Excellent. Another incident of “going back to report,” just as you do at the hospital, and as Jack’s mother did. I know a lot of police officers and other first responders, and doctors and nurses and others who work in emergency wards, and I don’t think people realize how much it can affect them to see some of the injured and ill who come through their hands. I would guess that after all this time, the police officer (now chief) must be relieved and happy to know that John made it. Just knowing about one can give you hope for so many more.

Comment by Margo Lynn 04.20.09 @ 11:14 am

Amazing story. Thank you for telling it and also for helping it happen by communicating with the officers. You are a blessing, Alison. You say “Thank you” so often I wish I could say “ditto” every time just to make it even!

Comment by LynnM 04.20.09 @ 1:23 pm

You are bringing so many stories (lives) together frontwards and backwards in such an amazing way.
Every time I read your blog I am just bowled over!

Comment by karin 04.20.09 @ 1:31 pm

Tears in my eyes and chills down my spine. Thank you, as always, Allison, for sharing your faith-filled path through this world with us!

Comment by Kathleen 04.21.09 @ 9:42 am

Tears in my eyes and chills down my spine. Thank you, as always, Allison, for sharing your faith-filled path through this world with us!

Comment by Kathleen 04.21.09 @ 9:42 am

Beautiful story. Yup, tears over here too.

Comment by Alicia 04.21.09 @ 12:09 pm

GOOSEBUMPS!!! God put you in that place and had you finish telling the story. I love it! I am so glad you wrote that letter.

Comment by Momo Fali 05.01.09 @ 2:07 pm

Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>