Near Freezing

In 1982, I nearly froze to death in -36 degree weather (-80 wind chill factor). The night before this happened, I was talking with a friend by phone; having heard the weather forecast for the next day, I asked if she would pray for me since I had to go to work at 6:00 a.m. the next day, a Sunday. She prayed with me and my heart was eased.

Since the drive to work normally only took five minutes, the next day I left for work with wet hair. I can’t believe I DID that! I was wearing a knit hat, waist-length jacket, light gloves, snow boots and thin “nurse” slacks. My three young children and husband were all still sleeping when I left.

On the way to work, the pickup suddenly froze up right in the middle of the highway, and I couldn’t get it started again. This was LONG before cell phones were invented. There was not a single soul out that early in the morning, and every business was still closed.

I had always heard that in cold weather, or in a snow storm, we should remain inside our vehicles and wait for rescue, so I waited. But, after only a few moments, I suddenly KNEW I would freeze to death if I followed that advice, so I jumped out, slamming the door, and took off running.

The moon was still up, and the stars were twinkling brightly in the clear night sky. There was not a hint of a breeze. I felt so isolated. It was SO COLD, yet it BURNED as if the sun itself had come and sat down inside my body; the pain was excruciating. Whoever said that “freezing to death is painless” is an idiot.

My place of work was still a quarter mile away, so I ran as fast as I could while many thoughts raced through my mind; “Well, I lived four years longer than Mom did.” “I didn’t even get to say good bye to my kids.” “No!! I will NOT die!” … “It’s so COLD!!” Oh, it was such COLD/FIRE.

Suddenly I hollered out, “JESUS!! Can’t You see me running AROUND down here??!!” Have to laugh now. Of course He saw. He was running WITH me.

I spotted my pastor’s house and quickly thought maybe he could help. I pounded on the door, but no one answered. I knew if I stopped running I’d freeze, so I took off again, running through backyards.

Between two houses, I caught sight of the nursing home not far ahead, so I turned and cut between them and SLAMMED into a clothesline right at the top of the bridge of my nose. I flew backwards a few feet, hitting the HARD, frozen ground with a thud! My glasses flew off and I hollered loudly in pain, shock and anger, “WHO PUT THAT THERE?” Scrambling around on my hands and knees, I found my glasses in the snow, thankfully unbroken. Putting them on, I stood up and started running again.

At last I opened the nursing home door, ran inside, and collapsed on top of the nurse’s station, heaving for breath. A woman I worked with came, knelt down, and tried to gently pull off my boots; my feet had swelled up greatly from the cold, so she had a much harder time than she thought she would. I was so glad to be alive, and I kept assuring her my feet were all right. She helped me to the nurse’s lounge, and began to rub my feet and legs; she rubbed as I cried. I found out much later that rubbing the skin, once it’s so cold as mine was, can cause tissue damage; my thighs were damaged in this way and were very painful to the touch for the next six years. I had no frost bite, though; no skin had turned black. I was extremely thankful to the Lord for that, and for keeping me alive.

I worked the rest of that day, and once back home again, I took a hot bath. As the water was running, I knelt by the tub, sobbing my heart out to Jesus…, feeling so ashamed and sorrowful for having been angry at Him that morning…, asking His forgiveness for being so angry, and thanking Him for protecting me and bringing me safely through it.

The next day He led me to Psalm 118… the whole Psalm spoke volumes to me.

He emphasized verses 13-17: “Thou hast thrust sore at me that I might fall: but the Lord helped me. 14 The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation. 15 The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly. 16 The right hand of the Lord is exalted: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly. 17 I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.”

Verse 17 STOOD OUT BRILLIANTLY to me.

Later that evening, watching the news, I found out that two women in my state froze to death that day, one less than 200 feet from her car. I burst into tears upon hearing it and my children’s father said, “Oh, for Pete’s sake, you didn’t die!” And, crying, I said, “No, I didn’t, but I know how they felt and they didn’t die easy.”

I wrote a letter about this experience to my Aunt Ruthie. Ruthie was crippled from birth and never walked a single day in her 86 years. She was twice raped in hospitals, but no one believed her. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her, never being able to do anything for herself. Yet, she loved the Lord, had forgiven all wrong done against her, and was so full of JOY all the time. When she told stories, my sisters and I would all roar with laughter. Ruthie would laugh so hard, she’d snort and we’d laugh even harder. It was often hard to understand what she said because of having no teeth, but that didn’t matter a hill of beans; it all somehow made everything she said even MORE funny. Oh, I miss her! She went Home to Jesus about ten years ago and whenever I picture her, she STILL hasn’t stopped dancing!

In my hidey hole with Jesus, He said about Ruthie, “She was one of whom I said ‘the world was not worthy.'”

In my letter to her, I told her how sad I felt for hollering at Jesus. When she wrote back she asked me, “How do you know that Jesus didn’t allow you that anger to keep you alive?” What a shockingly wonderful thing to read! I’d never once thought of that!

Years later, after writing to a friend about this same experience, that friend also wrote back saying, “He may even have allowed a sassy strength to endure!” What a cool confirmation to Ruthie’s words!

Two days after my race against death, that same horrible cold front moved East, and a very large jumbo jet crashed into the Potomac River because of ice on its wings. All but five people died.

Potomac, January 13, 1982