The Woman Who Kept Me Warm

November 2, 2011 | 41 comments

It’s been almost three years now, and I still don’t know her name. That thought occurred to me just yesterday, when I drove by the accident scene for the first time in several months.

She was the woman who stood in the ditch, with her back against the icy gusts, while blood ran warm down my legs. She held a blanket to my broken van window, and I never once asked her to tell me her name.

I couldn’t see her face.  

I do know that she was wearing a skirt, because someone told me later she belonged to a church where the women adhere to particular dress codes. I think now about how that January wind must have been whipping up her skirt, gnawing at her legs, as she stood outside my shattered van window. She was my Aaron and my Hur, holding up a blanket for how long? Thirty minutes? I don’t know.

I do remember how my van landed in that ditch. I was driving south on an ice-patched highway. An oncoming car lost control and swerved into my lane. I felt my body tense as the glass shattered and the steel crumpled. The van spun. I ended up in the ditch, facing north.

I felt wind slapping my face, and that is how I knew I was alive.

I didn’t know what to pray, but perhaps in times like these, your spirit knows that the most rudimentary words are sufficient. I said them over and over again: Help me, God. Help me, God.

No one would have blamed her if she’d driven past. Several others had already pulled over to help. She had good excuses. She was on her way to somewhere. And she was wearing a skirt. 

No one asked her to be a hero.  

Someone told me later that she had an extra blanket in her trunk, just in case she’d ever need one.

She was an answer to my primitive prayer. She was a modern-day Good Samaritan who stood ankle-deep in snow to keep a stranger warm. I remember saying a muffled thank you from the other side of the blanket while the paramedics tried to figure out how to extract me.

Finally, the paramedics carried me through the passenger-side door on one of those stiff boards. They covered my face until they loaded me into an ambulance.

I didn’t get to see her face. And it’s true: sometimes you might never know the name of the stranger who enters your life for the sole purpose of washing your feet.

I suspect she watched as the ambulance drove off down that Iowa highway. I imagine her, something like a snow angel, shivering and wet as that wind whipped across an open Iowa field.

The sirens fade. And I see it in her hands, the blanket that hangs at her side.

If I look closely, I can—at last—see her face. She looks a lot like her Teacher.

 

Writing in community with Emily today …

 

by | November 2, 2011 | 41 comments

41 Comments

  1. amy@to love

    oh jennifer, i really really love this story. what a beautiful woman. those people that enter our lives momentarily and leave us remembering forever, leave us changed in some way… so special.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Amy,

      I’m pretty sure that I could track this woman down. Part of me thinks that’s a good idea, so I can tell her thank you — face to face. But then the other part of me wonders if she’d rather keep it this way, knowing that her act of love was done without any recognition. What do you think?

      Reply
      • Megan Willome

        I’m so glad you shared more of the story. And although I can’t say for sure, a part of me thinks she never told anyone. What you write here is the perfect tribute.

        Reply
      • amy@to love

        oh that’s so hard. i have someone like that. i have always wanted to find them, tell them thank you, and i still haven’t. i feel like one day i will and it will come at just the right time. so i don’t know. maybe just when the time is right.

        Reply
  2. Pattylh

    A blanket held…a cup of cold water offered… when we’re in desperate need no act of kindness is too small.
    Thanking God for not only protecting you but for providing a loving stranger along that icy road.
    Beautiful story.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Patty. There were so many people out there helping us, in various ways, on that morning. But yesterday, I couldn’t stop thinking of this woman in particular, and her simple sacrifice of literally standing in the gap. I just broke down thinking about it.

      Reply
  3. Teresa

    Jennifer,
    I am bawling as I type these words. You are an amazing writer..the last sentence got me good…”If I look closely, I can—at last—see her face. She looks a lot like her Teacher.” Our Jesus…thank you for writing this amazing story! Wow! Thank you! A beautiful reminder of our beautiful God, who was able to utilize a willing vessel, who was prepared for this good work (II Timothy 2:20-21)

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Teresa,

      It’s a lesson for me … I want to be like that woman. I don’t want to pass by the hurting. I don’t want to hurry past the downtrodden. This was a simple — yet great — act of love from a stranger. I’m in awe of the way Jesus works.

      Reply
  4. r.ellott

    Oh this is lovely…To see God’s Grace in all things…in every place…seeing love…in the seemly small acts of kindness…
    Blessings as we all grow to look more like the Teacher…

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I want to be like the blanket-holder. I fall short. I’m so glad that God brought her to mind. She’s a real-life Good Samaritan.

      Reply
  5. Ray Hollenbach

    Yep. I think she looks an awful lot like her Teacher–and I’m glad you survived.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thanks, Ray. Me, too. 🙂

      Reply
  6. Lisa notes

    This is beautiful. I wonder how often people are sent to help us and we never even see their faces. Or learn their names. But still sent. From the Father.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Agreed, Lisa.

      I think of how God has so intricately woven our ways together. And I’m sure that most of the time, I’m completely unaware. Grateful that this time, God gave me a wee glimpse of this woman’s sacrifice.

      Glad you stopped in today, Lisa.

      Reply
  7. Ann Kroeker

    A simple act that helped when she might have felt helpless:

    A blanket, to block the wind.

    Thank the Lord for His daughter who was ready and willing to serve when the rest of us couldn’t be there for you.

    Reply
  8. Erin

    this is lovely lovely.

    Reply
  9. Duane Scott

    I go to “that” church… where the women wear skirts.

    And my heart slows to murmur a thank you for placing me in a church where people are willing to do something good for others…

    to be a stranger
    no credit given
    except to Him
    the Teacher

    My heart is full.

    Reply
  10. Dawn @ Dawnings

    Oh, Jennifer. The humbling of being helped when we can’t help ourselves. I know it all too well, and am forever grateful. Thank you for this eloquent reminder.

    Reply
  11. becky at abbey style

    How this must have changed things for you…you must think regularly about being a Good Samaritan now.

    Reply
  12. brian miller

    the not seeing of her face adds to the humility of the hero…we need more heroes like that…what a scary time it must have been…shew…glad she was there for you….

    Reply
  13. Nancy

    When I rolled my car on an icy highway, the first person to stop was a nurse. She stayed with my mother, helping to keep her calm. Others who came provided blankets and hats to keep us warm and a cell phone to call for help. None stayed around, we didn’t know who to thank. We weren’t able to return a blanket and hat. I’m pretty sure they were related to that same teacher.

    Reply
  14. Janae

    I want this is true “your spirit knows that the most rudimentary words are sufficient” because to have perfect words in the midst would leave us all wanting.

    Reply
  15. Deidra

    What a mess I am. Reading this post and then the comments. I drove by today. A woman’s car was stalled in the left turn lane and others drove by and shook their heads. She stood behind her car, looking off into the distance as her tail lights blinked red – hazzard. I drove right by her. And I like to think I know that teacher…

    Reply
  16. Amy Sullivan

    How many times do I just keep driving? Again, again, again, and again.

    I’m going to put a blanket in my car.

    Reply
  17. Mama Zen

    What a gorgeous story!

    Reply
  18. emily wierenga

    oh jennifer. how this woman humbles me, her standing there in that snow in her skirt, and her keeping a blanket in her car just in case. i’m with amy. i’m going to put a blanket in my car too. thank you, beautiful jennifer, for linking up. i was so excited to see you there! love you. em.

    Reply
  19. Sandra Heska King

    I wonder if there is a reason why this angel took up residence in your mind yesterday. I’m going to pray for her right now.

    And I’m going to put a blanket in my car, too.

    Reply
  20. Laura

    I am so thankful for that faceless, nameless woman in the skirt who shielded my friend when she needed it so. Thank you, Jesus, for this blanket-carrying angel.

    Reply
  21. S. Etole

    I think I’ve met her on a lone Montana highway in 1967 …

    Reply
  22. Sheila

    I suspect we’re most likely to entertain angels when we’re bloody.

    Jennifer, thank you for this story.

    Reply
  23. Diana Trautwein

    Oh.My. Beautiful. Woman and story and the telling of it. Thank you, friend. SO glad she was there for you and that you lived to write this glory down.

    Reply
  24. Denise J. Hughes

    Oh, how we need more modern-day Good Samaritans. Your words also remind me of how important it is that I pause to learn someone’s name. It is something I have been trying to become more intentional about lately.

    This is my first time here. It’s nice to “meet” you.

    Reply
  25. Linda

    You bring stories to life with your amazing writing Jennifer. This brought me spinning back to the day I was in a similar accident. I hit my head hard and kept going in and out of consciousness, but I will always remember the kind woman (a nurse I think she said) who stood by the door and held my hand until help arrived.
    The Father is so good – always – and often He comes in the form of a stranger willing to be His hands.

    Reply
  26. Joan

    This is a beautiful and touching story — thank you for sharing it! This women in the skirt was a lot like her Teacher. Even though you didn’t see her face, one day, when the trials of this world have passed, I’m sure you’ll get to meet her face to face. What a blessed that reunion that will be! I’m so glad God brought her to you on that cold winter day.

    Blessing to you Jennifer! Joan

    Reply
  27. Dolly @ Soul Stops

    Thank you for sharing how God answered your prayers for help and for highlighting the love and courage of the dear woman, who was your blanket holder… beautiful!

    I could imagine that brave and amazing woman because you did such a great job describing her. So grateful that God met you at your point of need.

    Reply
  28. wolfsrosebud

    it amazing how God can work when we are sensitive to the Spirit’s lead… Lord, bless this woman in a special way today… perhaps, it’s her day for a Good Samaritan… lovely story.

    Reply
  29. Anna @ path of treasure

    This gives me chills, the way you tell it. What a lovely woman, a quiet, humble “snow angel”.

    Reply
  30. Michelle DeRusha

    What an incredible story of giving and sacrifice, Jennifer.

    Now. Will you please do me a favor and write a book of these kinds of stories, or something? Will you please? Because every darn thing you write is publishable. Your stories and your voice and the way you write is simply outstanding.

    Reply
  31. Brandee Shafer

    I think she was so in tune with her (your) Maker that she got all the thanks she needed. I’m thanking God she was there for you.

    Reply
  32. Abby

    Jennifer ~ Thank you for sharing this story, it’s very powerful. Perhaps she was an angel “unawares”. I don’t always take the time to comment, but am appreciative of the gift God has given you to write, share God’s love and encourage others. Your photography with scripture or quotes is very soothing. Thank you for being obedient and following the Lord’s leading. I appreciate you. ~ Abby

    Reply

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