Part 3: Car Accidents & Road Kill

Impact & A Conversation With a Deer

Admittedly, I was going a little over the speed limit, in a hurry to get home and go to bed I suppose. It was dark and drizzly and there were just a smattering of cars on the highway. As I approached the outskirts of Healdsburg, just as the saying goes, was a deer in the headlights. It was a buck with a huge rack of antlers and it was standing on the left side of the fast lane, near the concrete center divide.

What business does a deer have being in the middle of an “asphalt jungle” you may wonder? Personally, I think he was commissioned. Hand-picked and appointed by God Himself. Here is how I imagine it all went down:

God: Pssst. Hey, you! It’s Me, your creator! I have a job for you!

Buck: Whatever You say boss. You call the shots (pun intended!). What do you have in mind?

God: Well, it’s like this: I have planned for you to get run over by a car and die later this evening. The good news for you is you will die instantly and won’t have to suffer.

Buck: Whatever you want Boss! I’m happy to be of service! Do I go now?

God: No, not yet. Come, I’ll show you the spot.

A few minutes later, as they approach the place…

God: There. In the far lane. Wait for my signal though…

Okay, the coast is clear, head over to the center but wait until I say when…

No, not this car… or the next… ok, “X” marks the spot, stand exactly where I showed you. Good! She’ll be the next car… Just remember to look surprised and DON’T JUMP!

I didn’t see him until he was in my headlights. I vaguely remember the terrible noise as Heidi was crunched by the weight of the force. Had the buck been just a few inches closer to the center of the lane, I likely would not have been able to walk away unscathed. As it was, he was perfectly positioned in front of my driver’s-side headlight. Rather than sliding up on the hood and crashing into the windshield and me, he crunched the entire left side of the engine and car body and so much so, I was unable to get out of the car on the driver’s side.

After impact, I had enough remaining momentum to pull Heidi across lane 1 and off to the right side of the road. With my mind, heart and blood racing faster than I had been driving, one of the first thoughts to come to mind was to check and see if the deer was still alive and if it was in danger of being hit again by the next car (and/or the next car was in danger of getting in an accident on account of the deer, dead or alive!). Grabbing a flashlight from the glove box (thank you Gerry for all those practical glove compartment, “just in case,” tools you gave as stocking-stuffers over the years!), I climbed out the passenger’s side and jogged the maybe 30 yards back to where the deer was lying in a growing pool of blood. Thankfully his body wasn’t sticking out at all into the lane and it was clear he hadn’t suffered long. I checked the road for any pieces of Heidi that needed to be picked up or at least moved out-of-the-way of on-coming cars while thanking Jesus both for my safety and the blessing this hadn’t happened at a time when there was a lot of traffic.


I returned to Heidi and sat in the passenger’s seat wondering what to do next. Perhaps I should have learned my lesson after Sammy’s accident 6 months prior but I still did not have a cell phone of my own and it was at least a mile’s hike to an exit where I would have a chance of finding a pay phone I could use. Over the next few minutes I thought to turn the hazard lights on and started honking the horn each time a car drove past. This is slightly embarrassing to admit as the daughter of two ham radio geeks but it took me another couple of minutes before I could remember (and started to honk) morse code for S-O-S. If the drivers speeding by me could not tell by my lights and honking I was in need of help, I became increasingly determined (or is desperate a more accurate adjective?), to make sure future drivers passing by would be without excuse. It took about 15-20 minutes before someone finally pulled over. By this point, I was cold, shaky, uncertain of what to do if no one came to my rescue and growing increasingly irritated none of the roughly 30-40 cars that had passed by, had bothered to stop. Then again, pulling-over in the dead of night to help who-knows-who did not strike me as something I, as a young, single girl, would do either.

Eventually my knight in shining armor appeared. I was crazy-nervous, tentative, excited, hopeful and relieved all at once when I saw an SUV pull over about an 1/8 of a mile in front of me and slowly back up to within 30 feet of Heidi and me. He was a nurse, maybe in his 30’s?, returning home to Sonoma County after covering a shift at the hospital in Eureka. He also happened to have a cell phone. We both got out of our vehicles and met in the middle. He introduced himself and then offered me the use of his cell phone and a warm place to sit while I waited for the highway patrol to arrive. I also was able to get a hold of some friends in Windsor who graciously pulled themselves out of their warm bed to get dressed and come pick me up from the place where Heidi would later be towed.

What Should Have Happened

The highway patrol arrived within 5-7 minutes. Within a few minutes after his arrival, he was on the phone with a local tow-truck driver while the good Samaritan who stopped to help me, was back on the road and on his merry way. By now, it was around midnight. The tow-truck driver arrived soon after and took an initial survey of both the deer and the damage it had accrued to Heidi. I rode with him to a nearby lot where Heidi would be kept safe for the night and on the way he shared with me,

“I’ve been towing cars for a long time. I have towed lots of sedans that had run-ins with deer. Pretty much every time I’ve seen this scenario, especially with a deer that size, the deer’s reflex to jump straight up causes them to slide up on the hood and come crashing through the wind-shield. I am really surprised this one didn’t do the same. You are one lucky lady.”

A Higher Quote

I eventually made it home and made a point to call my insurance company first thing in the morning to report the accident. No more than two weeks later, an agent came to my home. We sat down and  he went over some paper work with me. The insurance company had gone to three different sources to get a quote on the value of the car prior to the accident. One of the places was the dealership from whom I had bought the car six months prior. The dealership quoted the value of the car as having been higher than what I paid for her and the insurance company, knowing what I had paid for Heidi, still accepted the quote anyways! The average of the three quotes was how they arrived at the final amount for the claim. After having me sign two documents, the man who had come to my house shook my hand, assured me everything was taken care of with paying off the loan at the credit union and then he handed me a check for my portion of the claim.

The Miracle of a Quickly Processed Claim

Most folks I talked to around this time who had been involved in major car accidents were shocked to hear how quick and straight-forward the process had been for me. I have heard of stories where it has taken people over a year to see even an installment of what was owed to them by the insurance company. It took me two weeks and two signatures. Additionally, about a week later, I went down to the dealership with proof Heidi had been totaled and was immediately granted a 75% refund on the two-year warranty I had purchased.

My good friend and the oldest son of the family I was living with was in his fourth year at UCLA. He was living off-campus but close enough to the university for it to not be worth the trouble of having his truck with him at school. He generously offered for me to use it in the meantime.

Perfect Timing

Here’s the real clincher: the semester abroad program had several due dates for the fees. An initial deposit had been due in October with the bulk of the fees due at the beginning of December. The accident occurred and the claim so quickly processed, I received the check from the insurance company with less than two weeks to mail off a check for the program fees before the final deadline. The fees were about

Receipt from AIFS for program fees – Paid in full.

$5,500 in all and with what I had already been able to save, the amount I received from the insurance claim plus the warranty refund, I had exactly what I needed!

Had I not been in an accident earlier in the year, I would have been driving Sammy the Stanza that night. I am not so sure I would have walked away from the accident unscathed had I been driving the Stanza instead of Heidi but I do know I never would have gone to Florence in the Spring.

Sammy would have surely been totaled but there would have been no insurance claim on him and consequently, I would not have come up with the money I needed to pay for the study abroad program.


Not having Heidi’s car payments to make for the three months prior to the semester in Florence saved me a lot of money. Additionally, not having her sitting in my parent’s driveway while I was gone saved me from having to set aside the money I would have needed to make her car payments during the four months I was in Europe.

I was able to get by without a car the following Summer, in 2003, and when I moved to Portland, OR to attend Multnomah University in the Fall, I learned shortly after that Honda Civics are the #1 most common make and model of cars to be stolen and broken into in the city of Portland. Go figure, right?

I honestly get chills when I think about these two accidents. I have no idea where I would be if neither of them had happened exactly when and how they did but I am fully convinced, I would be living a very different life from the one I know today. In the middle of such events, it is often hard to see how these “accidents” could actually be working out to our advantage, especially when there is pain, suffering and loss involved. But they are not accidents at all. Each has a good and perfect purpose and is accomplishing so much more than we can see here in the present where we live.

If you have or are going through a seemingly “bad,” unwanted, scary, unexpected painful… event, have faith that God is working in the situation to bring about something beautiful. He is a true artist and pure genius when it comes to making beauty from ashes and bringing life from death. If you keep looking, you will eventually see how even the most tragic events are accomplishing His purposes and bringing about something beautiful, something that can only come to pass through the heat of trials and pain but in the end, will unveil something of much greater worth than the purest gold can buy.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30


2 thoughts on “Part 3: Car Accidents & Road Kill

  1. You nailed it again, Hillary! So grateful that God never wastes a thing & also glad that you are so willing to share your life experiences (however painful they sometimes are at the time) to inspire others to trust God in everything & to try to see things from His perspective. This was an excellent conclusion to your 3-part saga!


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