A Man’s Craving for a Beer Saved My Husband’s Life

Editor’s Note: We were blessed to have survived this accident that occurred on June 10, 2012.

Sean has been cleared of all restrictions on his shoulder and is doing well with his neck, after the four breaks to his C-1 and a fracture to his C-2. He has some stiffness and aches and can’t turn his head all the way to the left, yet, but he is otherwise a miracle man! My knee is still a little tender and I can’t kneel on it. The doctor says that is it is good as it is going to get, but I am not complaining because I know it could have been so much worse.

I wanted to share with you that after all this time, we are still receiving confirmation of God’s mercy and love for us at the time of that horrific accident.

Last week, Sean met up with the man Patrick who “happened” to be just two cars behind us. It was almost as if he materialized on the scene back on June 10. As you might recall (or read), after we crashed, Sean jumped up, TOOK OFF HIS HELMET, and was heading over to the motorcycle to try to pick it up! Patrick, who saw the whole thing, came over to Sean and identified himself as former EMT, and basically ordered Sean to lay down so he could hold Sean’s head in a straight line. “I will move any way you need to move,” he said. By then the searing pain was ripping through Sean’s body. He was writhing and screaming. Patrick knelt with Sean’s head cradled in his hands, and kept Sean’s neck and back straight.

Patrick works in the security department at Middlesex Hospital. Sean, as a police captain, serves at a liaison between the hospital and the PD, and spoke with Patrick before their meeting. Sean thanked Patrick again, crediting him again, for saving his life.

Patrick explained the ‘odd circumstance’ that lead him to the accident scene. Patrick was just finishing mowing his lawn, when suddenly he had a craving to go to the local bar to get a beer. He said he never gets a craving to go to local bar. Further, his car keys were outside on the front step—and he said he ALWAYS hangs his keys on a hook inside his house. He snapped up his keys, got in his car and headed to the local watering hole…until he came upon our accident!

Have you ever had a strong impulse do something out of the ordinary to find you were being used for another purpose?

Where do you think we go when we die?

I’ve always been fascinated by people’s near-death and “death” experiences. Raised in the Christian faith, I hope there is a God in Heaven and that I will see my loved ones beyond this earthly plane. People who have clinically “died” have given us some glimpses of good and sometimes terrifying scenes of what could be ahead for us. What do you think happens when our physical bodies die? Have you read any good books on the subject?

I have recently read To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again By: Mary C. Neal. http://www.christianbook.com/to-heaven-back/mary-neal/9780307731715/pd/731715?kw=to+heaven+and+back+mary+neal&event=PPCSRC&p=1018818&gclid=CJHp0Kvg6rQCFcef4AodFksAeg I highly recommend this book.

All for a Toothbrush

I remember one of my earliest Christmas seasons at my place of work where I am  the grant writer for a soup kitchen, food pantry, assisted living, and community outreach programs.  My cubical office which faces the Main Street is situated in such a way that I can hear people talking outside at the call-box at the front of the building.  With my office door open, I can also hear my co-workers talking to the people at the call box from their offices.

I was supposed to be concentrating on my work, but my thoughts kept drifting to what seemed to be an insurmountable list of things I needed to buy and do before Christmas.  I had to find the right gifts for people, had to plan a big meal with fussy eaters, and deal with idiot relatives who mouth off when they drank too much.

“Yes?” the squawky voice of my co-worker, a Sister startled me from my dysfunctional daydream.  She was two doors down the hall talking to a man who had just rung at the box outside.

“Ma’am, I was just released from prison and I need a toothbrush,” the burly voice beseeched. That should be no big deal, I thought. We just received literally hundreds of them during our recent toiletry drive, we could spare one. To my shock, the nun said, “I am sorry sir; I only give out toiletry bags on Tuesdays.”

What?! It was Thursday, but this didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t want to go against my co-worker, but I just could not see not making an exception for this man. I jumped out of my seat and ran down the stairs.  I pulled opened the door to the large dark man slightly hunched from the cold.  He was wearing a coat but was blowing into his bare hands to keep them warm.

“Sir, why don’t you wait in the dining room and I’ll get you a toothbrush.”

“Thank you, Ma’am,” he said. I ran back up the stairs slipping past the sister’s door and up to the third floor where we kept the toiletries.  I stood before huge grey bins and plucked a boxed toothbrush. This man has nothing, I thought as I stuffed the toothbrush a nearby Ziploc baggie.  I added tube of toothpaste, deodorant, and shampoo. Our mission is to help those in need, I thought,  justifying the stuffed bag. Remembering his cold hands, I picked up a pair of large gloves from the shelf of recent donations.  I didn’t want to get caught with this contraband so I stuffed the loot in the large pockets of my sweater.

I met the man in the empty soup kitchen dining room; it was cleared out after lunch hour.  “Here you are, Merry Christmas,” I said, taking a step towards him looking into his dark brown eyes.  His cold hand brushed mine as I handed him the packet. “Oh, the gloves, too,” I said, pulling them out from my sweater pocket.

All of a sudden this man began showering me with a profound and holy gift. “God bless you, ma’am.  God bless you and your family,” he bowed towards me. “God, Bless You.” My being tingled in his warm glow and my heart beat wildly, flooding me with spirit.  Here I thought I was to giving him, this needy man, just out of jail, a simple toothbrush kit and a pair of gloves, but he gave me something greater.

Teary-eyed, I floated up the stairs and back into my office.  While I was away from my desk, my boss had laid a white envelope across my keyboard. I opened my Christmas card and two sizable green bills spilled out. I burst into tears.

A Prayer Around A Hole In Deep River (An excerpt from my memoir)

My sister and I rode along in nervous chit-chat and pull into the lot at the Deep River Congregational Church. We followed signs to the church office and met the secretary.

“There it is.” The soft-spoken woman gestured to the cardboard box sitting on the table.

I stared at the light brown package with the many cancelled stamps. If you didn’t know, it could be just about anything.

“Do you want to open it here or at the cemetery?” she asked.  “The urn is inside.”

“I guess here would be easier, thank you,” I said. She handed me a pair of scissors.

I worked at the parcel, tearing off the envelope on the front.  My sister read it.

“It’s a proof of purchase of the burial plot,” she said.

The inner box was wrapped tightly in cellophane and I peeled the sides away.  Finally, I got to the white ceramic square. It was smooth and plain. I lifted it out of the debris.


“Hi, Grandma,” Brenda said.

We got directions to the cemetery down the road.

“Is there a place nearby that we can get some flowers?” I asked. The secretary gave us directions to a nearby flower shop. We thanked her and Brenda carried the urn to the van pretending once to drop it.

“Should we put her in the back seat with a seatbelt?” she giggled.

The flower shop was closed.  We wound up finding slightly-aged, off-white roses at the nearby supermarket.  On the way to the cemetery, we passed Grandmother’s old apartment complex where our father would take us to visit her in the late 70s — and where she ignored my sister. “There’s were you used to live,” Brenda said as if she was talking to one of her preschoolers.  “Should I hold her up to look out of the window?”

What a bizarre caper this was, my sister and I retrieving and now preparing to bury our grandmother’s ashes! My father’s side of the family wasn’t close— in fact only three of Grandmother’s five children bothered to attend her memorial service in Florida.  We adult grandkids didn’t go.  Yet when my father called from somewhere on the road again, and told me that his mother’s ashes were being sent to be interned by some church sexton, something inside me winced.  She was blood, after all, and my sister and I lived only twenty minutes away.  I had called Aunt Carol to ask permission to intern them.  “That would be very sweet, Dolly,” she replied.

“Can this be the one?” I parked my mini-van on side of the road at the sparsely-filled cemetery. Two women were photographing a child playing with a Golden Retriever rolling in the clumps of daffodils.  It seemed an unlikely final resting place for such a cold, meticulous woman.

“This has to be it. There are no other graveyards on this street,” Brenda said, checking the hand-drawn map the one the church secretary had given us.

We waded through shin-high grass to a single granite structure in corner of the yard with the yellow roses from the local grocery store and Grandmother’s white ceramic urn.   Brenda compared the names on the sheet of paper with those on the brass plate affixed to the side of the monument.  “I guess this is it.  But there is no third ex-husband listed here, like Aunt Carol thought.  Grandmother’s name is here, but only as a single plot.”

“Look,” I pointed with my foot towards the dingy plywood square a few feet away from the monument.  I lifted the board and inhaled the fresh dirt.  I surveyed the shallow hole and then spread the roses on their plastic wrapper beside it.

We stood solemnly for a moment.  Brenda recited some of the 23rd Psalm and I joined in.  We trailed off in a murmur because we didn’t know the rest of it.

“I’d like to pray,” I said.  We bowed our heads.

“Holy Spirit, our grandmother’s life was one shrouded in mystery and in pain. Please use us to understand and find compassion for the sadness in her life and that of our extended family. We are asking that grandmother’s soul receive your healing.”

I reached for the urn and paused with it over the opening.  It dropped into the hole and it hit the bottom with a thunk.  I picked up a rose and dropped it in. The stem planted itself upright in the soil next to the urn.

“We also ask for healing and for comfort for our father, Anthony,” I said, dropping in another rose.  It too, stood on end.

Brenda took my lead, “We ask for healing for her daughter Carol.”

“For daughter Jane.” I dropped another rose.

“For son Gerald.”

“For daughter Louise.”

“Spirit, I ask for healing for myself,” I said, dropping my rose into the hole.

“For me, and my children,” Brenda whispered as she dropped hers.

“Yes, for our entire family.”

We paused and looked into the grave. A ring of roses encircled the white square beneath.

We each took a final rose.

“To new life,” I said, laying it on the grass beside the hole.

“To new life,” Brenda echoed.

We walked across the grass and got into my van in silence.  “That’s one for the books!” I said, putting the key in the ignition.

“Wait a sec,” Brenda said, “I want to show you something.”  She pulled out an envelope from her pocketbook.  “Dad sent it to me from wherever he is in Florida.  I got it in yesterday’s mail.”

I glanced over and saw photocopies of news clippings on a sheet of paper with Dad’s scrawl around it. “Those Grandma’s obits?”

“Uh-huh. You will not believe this, but there are two different ones and one totally lies!”

“What? What do they say?”

“Check it out.” She handed it to me and I scanned the two and quickly noticed fake.  “Marion and her husband Edward? moved to this area (Florida) in 1989 from Deep River, Connecticut.’ What the—-? Grandpa and Grandma were divorced in 1961 and he died in 1974, for Pete’s sake!  Why the crazy lie?”

“I knew you’d freak out over this,” Brenda laughed.  “I did a little investigating and I called Aunt Carol yesterday. She said that she and her sister were actually going to make up three separate obits, besides the real one.”


“She said each write up would have Grandma in different scenarios to be sent to three different newspapers.   The last one was for the Riverton papers saying that Grandma had lived in Deep River with her third husband until he died, and then moved to Florida.  That did happen, but why would any of her ex-in-laws in Riverton give a rat’s ass?”

“Who would even care about the many faces of Marion?”  I sat stunned.

“The many husbands, the many last names,” Brenda laughed. “Mary Day, B-, Van Zant, again Van Zant, and then final, O’Neal…”

“God, so much dysfunction!  So much pain!  I just want to know why and what happened! Don’t you?”

Brenda nodded.  “But how?  It’s all so messed up, how would we find out?”

My reporter instincts were shifting into overdrive.  “There’s got to be a way to find out. Why was Grandmother allegedly like Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest? What happened to Grandpa if what Uncle Gerry said in his letter is true—-that  he beat Dad to a point of psychological damage?”

“Why didn’t any of their kids take over the family business?” Brenda asked.  “We’d be a lot better off if Dad did.  We at least deserve to know what happened since we have had to deal with all the fallout bullshit now,” she said, twisting a bulbous zirconium ring.

We sat quietly for a minute.  “I’m on it!”  I said, pulling the van onto the highway heading toward home.  “I’m going to find some answers.”

Motorcycle Accident 6/10/12 God Sent Help!

I can’t help but give God the glory in so many circumstances where Divine providence has carried me through clutch points in my life.  Sean’s early return from the Gulf War in 1991 to meet our newborn daughter and a long saga of healing with my formerly homeless father are two such journeys in which I write and give due praise. There’s just too much goodness/Godness to say something happened by freak-chance.

Here’s another incredible, merciful intervention.  Many of you know that about fourteen weeks ago, Sean and I were in a horrific motorcycle accident.  I basically walked away with a badly sprained knee (still a little purple), but Sean was severely injured.

It was an otherwise perfect Sunday June 10th as we made our first trip as a couple on our second, new-to-us motorcycle.  Biking was a rather new hobby of ours.  Sean had wanted a motorcycle for years but I’ve always countered, “Isn’t being a cop dangerous enough?”  Now that kids were older and we were working on doing things as a couple, not to mention he had completed the motorcycle riders’ course, I took a deep breath, said many a prayer, and learned how to be his biker babe.  It was a good exercise in letting go and trusting. I prayed every time we ventured out, though.

To be honest, I enjoyed the open air, the smells of cut grass, backyard barbecues, and fragrant flowers as we wound our way through bucolic byways of our state.  I’d squeeze Sean, give thanks for our time together, and think this is wild! This is so cool!

After a successful year and a half of riding on our small but dependable Honda Sabre–always wearing helmets, bike jackets and boots, never drinking, never driving stupidly–we talked about taking it up a notch and finding a bigger bike with saddle bags so we could ride off on romantic weekend trips.

Lo and behold, we spotted a 1200 cc Kawasaki Voyager motorcycle (resembling a Honda Goldwing) for sale on the lawn of a really nice guy in Essex.  After doing the research and test driving, we decided to buy it.  It was Day Four of ownership when I got on the back of the big bike for our first day trip together, June 10th.  What a great, smooth ride and comfortable, taller passenger seat than on our former Honda!  I could see over Sean and had more room for my legs.  This bike seemed so much more secure because of its size, I thought.

Earlier that day we had visited friends in Killingworth, and then caught the Chester ferry east of the river to say hello to friends on the Colchester green.  Our friend Melissa Schlag who was collecting signatures for her state senate campaign at the town’s fair-like gathering.  Sean and I had Philly cheese steak sandwiches there, decided we’d ride off for ice cream in East Haddam.

As we approached an intersection we debated whether to go the river route or the country route to Hillside Sweet Shop.  I didn’t care.  Sean at the last second decided we should go the country route and took a quick left turn.  Because the bike was a few hundred pounds heavier and lower to the ground than our old Honda, Sean wasn’t used to its less responsive handling.  One of the pegs scraped the tar.   I was unfazed as this had happened to us once before on the old bike and Sean straightened it out without issue.

Sean knew we were in trouble, but I didn’t see it coming. The bike was cruising out of his control.  Trying to avoid a metal road sign on the median between Routes 149 and 151, Sean drove into the curb.  I have no recollection of this, but we were both bucked off up and over the handle bars. I flew to the left and Sean to the right. The bike went down the middle.

Catapulted 15 feet through the air with arms with my arms stretched forward as if I was sliding into second base, I felt a thump.  Yellow, bristly, dried-up grass flew into my helmet shield as I skidded to a stop.  My left knee caught on a rock in the median that I found out later was the size of a small potato.

Stunned, I sat up with my legs stretched out in front of me. The left leg of my jeans was torn at the knee and I noticed a little blood.  I surveyed the rest of my body.  I was shaking, but otherwise seemed intact.  I turned to my left and saw Sean lying still on his back about 20 feet away.

In all of the 28 years I’ve known my tough guy, of all the years he’s been a police officer, I’ve never seen Sean flat out unable to move, hurt or in big trouble.  A bolt of terror ripped through me and I began to pray.

Oh, God, please let him be alright.  Let me stay calm. Let me stay calm.

“Seanie are you OK?” I called out shakily. “Sean?”

I heard him moan. “My shoulder, my shoulder.  F*&k! I dislocated my shoulder!”

“We’re going to be OK, Seanie. We’re OK.” God, please let us be OK.

I turned slightly to my right and behind me and saw the motorcycle on its side with wires spewing out. A man with a long red pony tail was standing next to it, his cellphone in hand, “I just called 911,” he said.

For a moment I had a crazy thought. Why? We’re going to be OK.  We just dumped the bike. We’ll be getting up in a minute and be on our way.

Maybe Sean felt that too because when I glanced over to him, he was suddenly up on his feet and had taking his helmet off!   He swore, and then walked toward the bike, in his usual take charge demeanor.  “I’ve got to pick it up,” he said to this dark haired man who suddenly appeared.

The man held up his hand to Sean. “I’m a former EMT. You need to lie down.” He was calm but firm.  He had witnessed the accident and the awful cloud of dust our bodies made when we landed. “I will hold your head and move with you anyway you need to move.”

For some reason, Sean obeyed the man. He knelt and held Sean’s head in his hands as Sean started thrashing and screaming as I had never seen him do in all of our time together. “My shoulder, my ribs, I know I broke my ribs!”  Thankfully, he stayed down.

“You’re going to be OK, Seanie.” I said. Oh, God please let us be OK.  Please keep me calm.

Sean looked up and he realized he knew the man who was holding his head in place.  It was Patrick Murray, an administrator at the security department at Middlesex Hospital. Sean actually meets with him and his staff once a month as a police department liaison. What are the chances that this man would be two cars behind our motorcycle and come to the scene to help?

I don’t know how long it took for the ambulances to arrive—we were out in the middle of Moodus—, but I just kept praying.  The late afternoon sun was a bright yellow-gold around us.  I know I was in shock, but I also felt a steady calm.  My knee barely hurt me.

Sean and I were initially taken to Middlesex Hospital.  As soon as Sean had a CT scan he was whisked Hartford Hospital because he broken his neck in five places!  Four in his C-1cervical vertebrae and one in his C-2.  More than one medical professional has told Sean how lucky he is.  Breaking the C-1 is one of the most life threatening breaks you can get.  One wrong move and your spinal cord could be severed resulting in instant death or paralysis. Sean had broken his in four places! He got up on his feet!  He took off his helmet!  He was walking over to the downed bike ready to lift it up when Patrick Murray came on the scene and told him stop!

Sean spent two days in intensive care and six more days after a precarious surgery to repair his “smashed” scapula (his surgeon’s words). Those five breaks were patched together by three stainless steel plates and nine screws.  He also had four broken ribs.

I escaped with a badly bruised/sprained knee and two little scrapes on my left knuckle.

Where are we now? We are alive and grateful!    Sean still has to wear his neck brace because one of the breaks in his C-1 is slow to fill in with new bone.  My knee is still bruised and not quite right, but we are both back to work. We believe God sent help.  We wonder what He has in mind for us after sparing us from paralysis or even death?

Click here “A Man’s Craving For Beer Saved My Husband’s Life” for an update on this story.