Interstate 80 stretches across the northern half of the United States, from New York City’s George Washington Bridge to downtown San Francisco. Long-haul truckers like my late husband and I know the road well, and well we know how perilous it becomes in farm states like Nebraska and Iowa, where salt is rarely used to tame ice and snow, and hundreds of overturned cars litter the medians after every snowstorm.
A steep hill loomed, forcing me to gently press on the accelerator. At only 35 miles per hour we could easily lose all forward momentum on the icy uphill, sliding backward if I did not start out with enough speed.
Another Billy Big Rigger blew by, flinging loose snow contemptuously at my slow-moving rig. As I reached the peak of the hill, I delicately lessened my pressure on the pedal for the far more dangerous downhill beyond – and instantly went into a skid. The automatic engine brake, switched on hours ago and then forgotten, kicked on as soon as I released the accelerator, radically altering the truck’s momentum.
It is difficult to describe the all-encompassing terror I felt at that moment. The truck and trailer stayed aligned, but began to pivot as a unit. As the front of the cab swung towards the side of the road, I saw that last Billy Big Rigger’s truck lying on its side, cab pointing back the way he had come, tires still spinning in the icy air.
I instantly saw this as my future, lying right before my eyes. In another couple of seconds we, too, would be on our side, wheels spinning freely. The fear this thought produced sent me shooting straight out the top of my head. I literally felt myself leave my body, as I have heard we do immediately before death, thereby missing the pain. I could see what was happening as if I were hovering above the scene, and as I was suspended there for that split second, I sent out an urgent call: “Archangel Michael! Save us!”
I slammed back into my body and the truck and tractor, still perfectly aligned from rear to nose, turned slowly back the way it had come. It felt exactly like an enormous hand reaching down and straightening us out.
I flicked off the engine brake. We coasted slowly down the hill as if nothing had happened. As far as the laws of physics are concerned, this was impossible. As far as the laws of spirit are concerned, it was inevitable.