Someone asked me this week how I came about my faith. My friend and I were playing outside in the yard. She was eight years old and I was six. The horses were blowing in the shade, rubbing their bodies against the horse blankets hanging on the fence. We lived in the country so we burned a lot of garbage in a big barrel. The garbage can was burning. My friend’s dad was working on the lawnmower trying to get it to run. He had it broken apart and had drained the fuel into a can. He was a very large man, but sweet and gentle. He was one of my favorite dads’ in the neighborhood.
He called my friend over to take the can and pour the gasoline out on the road. She did what he told her to do. But as she walked past the smoldering trash can the fumes from the can ignited, igniting the gas, which engulfed my friend. I was sitting on the ground staring in wonder. Her arms were waving and she was screaming, but she looked like a beautiful golden angel.
Her dad began to run toward the horses and yell at me to go home. He never raised his voice. I looked at him. He continued screaming at me to go home while he was throwing his child to the ground in one of the horse blankets. I became frightened. He continued to scream and yell at me to go home. I was extremely hurt that my favorite dad was yelling at me to go home and being mean to my friend. I ran to my bicycle crying, jumped on and peddled as fast as I could home. I had no real understanding of what had occurred.
My friend died three days later. My parents took me to her funeral. I never went back to her house.
My parents and I were unaware I was traumatized, until the reoccurring nightmares caused me to wake up in the middle of the night with bloodcurdling screams. My parents took me to a child psychologist until the nightmares stopped.
As I grew into elementary maturity I realized my friend had died and would never come back. I still get upset at what happened that day. I still cry for the loss of my friend. As a parent I realize the great sadness and loss my friend’s family endured.
My parents began to go to church after her death. Sunday school class began teaching me about God and how he gave his son Jesus for our salvation. I memorized John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (KJV) I was taught that if I believed this I would get to be with Jesus and God. It was a promise from God. I felt a great conviction and accepted Jesus as my savior in December, 1968, two years after the death of my friend. I know her death was a catalyst for my salvation. I am very thankful for coming to know Jesus, because I would never have made it through a cancer diagnosis without my faith in the Lord and His promise of hope. “For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare, not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11; KJV)