By Mark Mynheir
My pulse quickened and emotions welled up within me, ready to burst, as I drove along the sparsely inhabited stretch of highway. The midday Florida sun cooked the asphalt, and heat waves pulsed on the horizon. I was about a mile away from the section of road where my oldest son, Christopher, had died in a car accident a mere two months before, and it was all I could do to keep it together as I closed in on the site.
As a part of my job, I traveled this thoroughfare between Orlando and the coast regularly, although it was nearly 50 miles from my home. I had passed the spot a couple of times since the accident, generating a torrent of tears and the soul-crushing agony that comes from the traumatic death of a child, but I never had the desire or strength to stop. This day was different. I was going to visit the place where my son died.
I didn’t know why I felt drawn to go to the accident site — especially alone. Maybe it was curiosity or to seek some semblance of understanding of the whys and hows of such a loss. Perhaps God was leading me there as part of my healing journey, to move closer toward closure, which felt all but impossible at that point. The fog of the initial trauma was lifting, making way for a dark, oppressive blanket of depression and despair. Chris was a passionate and unapologetic follower of the Lord, and his death at the prime of his life was so sudden and senseless.
I wasn’t sure if I could survive one more day, much less move forward, and my prayers for answers appeared to go unheeded. My faith — like my emotions — was unsteady and teetering on the brink. God seemed silent and so very distant from me, as though I had been forgotten or abandoned by Him in the darkest time of my life.
I arrived at the location and eased onto the shoulder of the road and drew a deep breath, preparing for another brutal bout of emotions to overwhelm me once again. I hesitated for a moment and wondered if I had made a huge mistake.
“God, help me” was all I could manage as I got out and walked a few yards ahead of my car to the tragic plot of road. I expected the flood of tears and anguish that had become so familiar at the slightest thought of my son or his death. But as I stood on the road, a strange, inexplicable peace held me fast. I turned in a circle, soaking in the entire scene, wondering what exactly I was looking for. Yet, nothing. No raw emotions. No cathartic outpouring of love or sorrow. Just a few still moments on the side of a road.
The unnatural serenity continued, and I felt God was impressing upon me that this place had no significance to me, my son, or our family. It was just where the accident happened, nothing more. Chris was with Him in Heaven, a place of pure love and joy and the presence of the Lord. I had not felt God speak to me in such a clear and compelling way since the accident.
I took one more good look around and got back into my car, still trying to process what just happened. I exhaled the spent nerves away and was ready to leave when a car pulled up behind mine. Thinking it was a police officer checking on me, I got out and expected to see a patrol car, but instead, it was an SUV. A friend named Anne stepped out and called to me.
“Mark, are you okay?” she said.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said, stunned. “What are you doing here?”
Anne was a close friend of ours, and she and her family celebrated holidays and get-togethers with us. They had joined us at the Fourth of July celebration a week before Chris’s death, and she knew him well.
Anne explained that her son in Orlando had lost his driver’s license and needed her to bring some documents over to him right away. She considered taking a different, more direct route to Orlando, but at the last minute, she changed her mind and drove this road instead. She saw me outside of my car as she was passing by, and she felt God telling her to turn around and pray with me. So, she did.
The odds were astronomical that Anne would have to travel to Orlando at that precise time in the middle of the day nearly 50 miles away from either of our homes, change her mind on the direction to take, pass by me when I was out of my car, which was only a minute or two at the most, and to hear God’s voice to turn around and pray with me. Only God could have arranged the exact timing and circumstances of that meeting.
My composure crumbled, and I wept uncontrollably. Anne prayed over me as I grieved my son in that place. God never abandoned me, then or now, and He sent a friend to intercede for me in that moment to prove it. “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
Mark Mynheir has written five novels, one of which was a finalist for a Christy Award in 2010. He’s also written articles for Focus on the Family’s teen magazine Breakaway, The Lookout magazine, Christian Fiction Online, and CBN.com. In addition, he co-authored two prayer books with Max Lucado: Pocket Prayers for Dads and Pocket Prayers for Military Life. Besides being a prolific writer, Mark has been a police officer for more than 33 years.