Dottie Pratchard recalls a harrowing close call she experienced while rafting down the South Fork of the American River and the prayer that changed everything for her.
My mom and dad had known each other since high school. “We were meant to be together,” Dad said. My father didn’t show his emotions much, but you could see a sparkle in his eyes whenever he talked about Mom.   My older brother, Roland, and sister, Alma, and I always knew how much our parents loved each other. Long after they sent us kids off to bed they lingered at the kitchen table, talking and holding hands, just enjoying their time alone.   We lived in Midland, Texas, where Dad was a full-time CPA, and Mom had her own [More]
I was clearing up the breakfast dishes when the phone rang. “Something’s happened to your mom,” my dad said. He was trying to keep calm, but I could hear panic in his voice. “The ambulance should be here any minute.”   A rush of cold swept through my body, as if I could feel the blood draining to my feet. “Ambulance?”   “I found her collapsed on the floor. Hurry over! I’m alone here.”   I stumbled upstairs, jerked on my shoes and ran out to the car. Luckily my family all lived close together. My parents were only a [More]
Seven o’clock. Just about time for my evening walk. I tucked my cell phone into my pocket and headed off down the road, where the summer cottages stretched out along the Juniata River in Bedford County, Pennsylvania. I walked past the cottage next to mine, past . . .   I stopped. Gladys’s cottage stood empty. It was still hard for me to believe that she wasn’t inside. We weren’t family by blood—she and her husband were great friends of my parents while I was growing up. Her daughter and I were like sisters, and Gladys was like a second [More]
They call it the most magical place on earth. What better vacation spot for us to visit than Disney World that summer of 1985? My husband and I had only been married a few months, but all signs pointed to a long and happy future for our brand-new blended family. Life felt more settled already, and I was relieved to no longer be alone.   “Let’s do Space Mountain tomorrow,” my older daughter said as she got into the sleeping couch on the opposite side of the room. Her sister was already tucked into the cot. “And Cinderella’s castle!” she [More]
Knuckles white, I gripped the sides of our ski boat. The storm had hit with almost no warning and we were being tossed about like a cork, the wind and waves threatening to capsize us.   “We’ve got to get back to the dock,” Phil yelled over the gale. We’re veteran boaters. Not easily panicked. My husband and I were fighting for our lives.   From the middle of Kaw Lake, a massive body of water in northeast Oklahoma, I looked to where we had put in that morning, hoping to enjoy the day exploring the lake’s many coves. But, [More]
My little dog, Teddy, tugged on his leash, interrupting my thoughts as we walked through my condo complex. The mornings were our time together and Teddy, a Lhasa Apo, got impatient if he didn’t have my full, undivided attention. “Sorry, Teddy,” I said with a small smile. My thoughts were all over the place this morning. The public school where I worked as a special education teacher was on break. I was thankful for the time off, but I felt completely stressed about the prospect of returning to work. My job was challenging. Too challenging sometimes. Resources were limited. Class [More]
Scotch burned my throat on the way down. Finally. I’d waited hours for my favorite bar to open up and it wasn’t even noon yet. I couldn’t deny it anymore. My drinking was out of control and I was scared out of my mind.   “How are things, Jim?” asked Betty the bartender.   I shrugged and looked around the bar. The place was dim—none of the customers wanted to see anything too clearly.   I could make out a few faces against the wood paneling: A man in a rumpled coat hunched over a tumbler of whiskey. A woman [More]
All my 84 years, I’ve believed in angels. From the time I could be read to, my mother shared the Bible stories of when they appeared. And then there was another story, a special family story, that my mother told me many times. It wasn’t nearly as old as those Bible stories, but we knew it was every bit as true. Because it was a story about my own grandmother, back in 1898.   Chicago, at the end of the nineteenth century, was not an easy place for a young couple without much money. My grandpa had a job at [More]
All six of my children had been born naturally, in the comfort of our home. I knew the natural ways to induce labor—walking, evening primrose oil, a bowl of pineapple chunks, a warm bath. I was a pro at breathing rhythms and the most comfortable delivery position. By child number seven, I knew what I was doing. But after 35 hours of labor, my home-birth doctor sent me on to the hospital.   “You need advanced medical attention,” he said. “Your labor isn’t progressing.” I didn’t know if I was more disappointed or scared.   My husband, Michael, helped me [More]
Take your problems to the Lord. That had always been my policy. But as I pulled out of my driveway one morning, my biggest worry was…simply worrying.   My concerns were nothing out of the ordinary: a big project at work, a to-do list of household repairs, trying to keep in touch with family. There was nothing I could do about any of it at the moment. I was on my way to work.   And yet no matter how many times I told myself to stop, I couldn’t stop going over and over it all in my head.   [More]
“Sing, Dari! Loud as you can!” Normally my four-year-old daughter loved to sing. Now she just stared, uncomprehending, at the nurse. I squeezed her hand for comfort. The nurse wanted her to sing so she would take deep breaths of anesthesia. I understood that, but how could I explain it to Dari?   The doctor had allowed me to be in the operating room until she was asleep, but I didn’t feel like I was being all that much help. There was so much for Dari to take in: the mask over her nose and mouth, the doctors and nurses [More]
A beautiful spring afternoon on the lake turned into a nightmare when a family’s boat drifted too close to a power dam. The powerful current pulled the boat under—and took the family with it.
I love to look through our online submissions to Guideposts‘ family of magazines. Angel lovers won’t want to miss this one, from Paul Silway of Chinchwad City, Pimpri, Maharashtra.   His phrase “homegoing angels” was new to me, and one I won’t forget. He also included a drawing, see below, “The Anticipation and Joy of Going Home.” Thank you, Paul, for this comfort to all of us:   A Vision Read More: Angels escort a loved one to heaven | Guideposts
What was that? I listened closely, all alone in my dark bedroom, but heard nothing more. Just the house settling, I told myself. I rolled over and pulled the covers up tight around me. I’d never get to sleep.   My husband, David, had died only a couple of weeks before. Without him here with me, our cozy, familiar house became something else entirely in the darkness of the night. The moon cast a ghostly light across the floor through a gap in the curtain. Shadows in the corners of the room grew long and sinister. Creaks and groans echoed [More]
Years ago my husband, Dan, was a missionary pilot in Ecuador. We lived at the foot of the Andes Mountains, and when he flew he kept in touch with me at the base camp by radio. One day I was logging his position and altitude when he suddenly announced that his Cessna had engine trouble. He needed to make an emergency landing. I looked at my map and saw nothing but steep hills dropping off into deep precipices. There was no flat space for miles around. From the sky, Dan searched for a road, a field, a meadow—any place he [More]
My mom and dad had known each other since high school. “We were meant to be together,” Dad said. My father didn’t show his emotions much, but you could see a sparkle in his eyes whenever he talked about Mom.   My older brother, Roland, and sister, Alma, and I always knew how much our parents loved each other. Long after they sent us kids off to bed they lingered at the kitchen table, talking and holding hands, just enjoying their time alone.   We lived in Midland, Texas, where Dad was a full-time CPA, and Mom had her own [More]
The phone rang as I was pulling my elf hat out of the closet.   Every December my husband, Jerry, and I help the Lions Club deliver presents to the 40 students of a nearby residential school, Green Chimneys , for kids with special needs.   Tomorrow everyone would gather at the local firehouse, and in addition to “Santa” and his “elf,” there’d be a magic show and a buffet lunch. The kids would even get a firehouse tour. I couldn’t wait.   But on the other end of the phone was a distressed volunteer. “Peggy, we’ve got a big [More]
“Dot, you’ll know God’s voice when you hear it,” Mama always told me. I needed to hear it now. It was an unusually cold evening in Jacksonville, Florida, but that wasn’t what made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I hurried down a dark, deserted street, eager to get to my Auntie’s place and escape the menacing hum of an old engine. The pale blue sedan was back. It had circled the block to pass me again—for the third time—slow, deliberate. Whatever the driver wanted from me, I didn’t want to find out.   I wasn’t [More]
Every family has its own folklore and superstitions. In our big Italian Catholic family, it’s said that the souls of the dead come back to visit us in the form of a moth. Crazy, huh? “That could be Aunt Ray!” Mom would say when one flew inside, and my younger brother, Charles, and I would laugh. We were 12 years apart, but close. He always wore black and white. I teased him that they were the only colors he knew how to match. At 23, Charles passed away suddenly in his sleep. Part of my world died too. I yearned [More]
Heading to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in June had become an annual tradition for a group of camping friends and me. That’s the only time the species of firefly Photinus carolinus, the only known synchronous fireflies in the western hemisphere, puts on a not-to-be-missed show.   The darker the night, the more spectacular the experience. On this particular evening, we were in luck. The new moon was just a pale sliver in the eastern sky as my friends and I crossed the footbridge that leads across Jake’s Creek from Elkmont campground.     We made our way up [More]
When I was growing up back in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, Mother prided herself on preparing us kids for anything life might send our way. Her own mother had suffered a massive stroke when she was only five years old. As the oldest of four children, my mother professed that it was hard work and a strong faith in God that got her through those rough years. She was a shining example of Yankee faith and fortitude, and she passed along those values to each of us.   Still, nothing could have prepared me for the void that Mother’s [More]
I stood before the full-length mirror in the church’s bridal suite, looking past myself in my wedding gown, searching for a blessing. The secret blessing I’d prayed for.   My soon-to-be mother-in-law fussed with the train on my gown, and the reflection got blurry as my eyes welled with tears. Not even my fiancé, Paul, knew the sadness that weighed on my heart, the longing I had for the presence of the five people missing from my special day.  My mom, my aunt, Grandma and Grandpa, and my sister, Audrey.   Five people I’d adored. My aunt and grandmother had [More]
Worst. Birthday. Ever. The second my husband was out the door, I collapsed in a heap on the living room sofa and cried my eyes out. He’d gone off to work without so much as a “goodbye” or “I love you.” Not even a “happy birthday.”   Our seven-year marriage was over. That much was clear. We’d just come home after a long weekend in San Francisco, where we’d intended to celebrate my 41st birthday with friends. We were trying to work through our problems. Maybe a mini vacation was just what we needed. But he’d ignored me the entire [More]
I sat at the kitchen table to read the paper, a quiet moment in a stressful morning. A familiar face smiled up at me from the obituary page—Eleanor, a grandmother figure I’d befriended in church. Everyone knew her as a deep and caring person, someone who would listen to your problems, pray for you, and know exactly the right thing to say to put you at ease. If only I could talk to Eleanor now. I felt like a terrible mother and I needed a friendly word.   My only son, Michael, and my two other girls didn’t give me [More]
 I drove slowly down the road, peering through the frozen rain striking my windshield. My 12-year-old son, Eric, shivered in the passenger seat while the car warmed up. I should have headed straight home after church, especially in this weather. But we had gone to visit a friend in Grymes Hill, a neighborhood in Staten Island, New York. By the time we left, the sun had set and a sleet storm had begun.   My friend’s townhouse was at the top of the hill and the way down was steep. There were patches of black ice everywhere along the winding [More]
For over 20 years, I had prayed for Joe, my stubborn, beer drinking, pool shooting father to become a follower of Jesus Christ. My mother had prayed for 30-plus years of marriage for the man she dearly loved who had no time for God and little time for her or me. At times Dad’s belligerence toward the things of God grew so hostile, his salvation seemed an impossible dream. Yet, our Christian family and friends prayed and waited. Then around 1980, God’s “still, small voice” impressed upon me to fast and pray every Saturday for my father. “Fast? Me…fast?” I [More]