A Routine Near-Death Experience… and a Rumor of Angels

Two days ago, I was almost killed in an instant. I had one of those experiences that shake you to your very core – and which, to me, constitute some sort of proof of divine providence.

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It was a very ordinary day. I drove my son to the beach train for his daily trip up the coast to high school. My wife had given me some money and asked me to stop at the store to pick up some sour cream. We were having chicken fajitas for dinner, and one of my kids like sour cream on them.

I pulled into the grocery store parking lot around 7:30 a.m. As I walked into the store, I noticed three very young children right outside the door. They caught my attention because they were pretty young to leave alone. There was a baby in a stroller and a boy and a girl of about four or five years of age, watching the baby. I assumed the mother left them outside and ran into the store to buy something. “That’s a bit odd,” I thought. “I hope the mom hurries up. They’re a little young to leave alone.”

I went into the store, found my sour cream, and left. I then got into my car, buckled up, and headed to the exit of the parking lot.

Now, the parking lot of this grocery store is slightly raised from main street of town that runs in front of it. The store itself, on the right, extends right out to the sidewalk. On the left, there is a brick wall that runs parallel to the sidewalk. Because the exit is a kind of ramp, the brick wall blocks your view of the street to the left. The parking lot exists onto the town’s main street, and there is a street light that lets you turn either right or left or go straight ahead.

The light was red. I was sitting in the car, waiting for the light to turn green so I could make a left-hand turn into traffic.

I looked over to my right and saw… the three little kids I had noticed before I went into the store! The mother (a young Italian woman) was pushing the baby stroller. She was wearing blue jeans and a black sweater. “Oh, good, the kids are okay,” I thought to myself, watching the mother nudge her two older children along. My attention was diverted for maybe 10, 15 seconds, as I watched them.

Then I looked up. I saw that the light had already turned green and I was holding up traffic a little. There was another car behind me, patiently waiting.

I started to move forward into the intersection when… WHOOSH! a car, traveling maybe fifty miles an hour, ran the light right in front of me! MOTHERFUCKER! The moron had just run the red light!

My heart caught a beat.

I moved into the intersection, turned left, and continued driving… but my heart was racing.

I suddenly realized that, had my attention not been diverted for those 10 to 15 seconds, had I moved into the intersection right when the light had turned green, I probably would have been directly hit (“T-boned,” as they say) by the car running the red light. At the speed the car was traveling, I could easily have been killed.

What caused me to hesitate? You can say it was just dumb luck. I had noticed those little kids going in… and their appearance, right when I was waiting for the light to change, caught my attention again. It was that moment of waiting that saved me.

A coincidence? Perhaps. But it is just these moments of so-called synchronicity… these gentle interior “nudges” that result in life-altering or, in my case, life-saving consequences… that encourage many people to see in life the hand of God (or his angels) at work.

Of course, you can also say the reverse works as well: Bizarre, unexpected coincidences… people being in the wrong place at the wrong time… that result in innocent people being killed or involved in horrible accidents.

For me, however, this strangely ordinary, almost routine brush with death was indeed a powerful wake-up call.

It reminded me once again of just how precarious life really is. Had I not noticed those young kids, I could have driven into the intersection – and died instantly in a horrible explosion of twisted steel and glass.

My wife and young daughters would have gotten a phone call from the local police. There’s been a horrible accident. You should come to the hospital.

The emergency room doctor would have told my wife that they had done all they could… but the internal injuries were too severe.

Needless to say, I now look both ways before moving into any intersection… and I pray more than usual for God to preserve my life at least until my children are fully grown.

I am grateful for whatever influence it was that caused me to hesitate before moving into that intersection.

Guardian angel indeed.

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Robert J. Hutchinson is an author and essayist. His most recent book is Searching for Jesus: New Discoveries in the Quest for Jesus of Nazareth (Thomas Nelson, 2015).