He was Before Me and Behind Me

Steph Wagner

August 30, 2013

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Warning, this post includes pictures of our car after an accident last November. 

If you’ve seen me in person since December of last year, you may have noticed a purple bracelet on my wrist. You may have noticed Mr W has one too. If you knew our families, you would know they have one too.

I’ve told this story (the short version and the longer version) many times but haven’t publicly shared it on the blog. It’s a story I will tell the rest of my life.

Perhaps by now you’ve heard I was in a horrific car accident November 25th of last year. I’ve shared that much on here. I’ve also mentioned there are many facets to this life experience, one that takes time to unfold all the layers.

I want to rewind to a few days before the crash. Thursday was Thanksgiving. I was in Kansas City with my family and my groom-to-be was in Tulsa with his family. We knew this was our last year we could split a holiday so we wanted to be with our own families for one last year. I rocked it with early morning Black Friday deals with my mom and sisters. Complete with reindeer antlers and 4 am wakeup calls. Go ahead, judge away. I made out like a bandit on wedding items: ties for groomsmen, dress for rehearsal dinner, shoes for my wedding dress. Later that day I even found my wedding dress!

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My Mom & Big Sister Sarah – picture taken about 4:30am! 

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The day I picked my wedding dress! Can’t tell I was up at 4:00 am huh!? 

After a day full of shopping and celebrating, I headed to Tulsa early Saturday morning. I spent the day celebrating another round of Thanksgiving with the family I would soon be a part of!

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So these are the memories I have before the crash. Thanksgiving meals. Family and soon-to-be family. Early morning shopping with my favorite women. Finding my wedding dress and celebrating I’d found the man I was going to love, marry and grow old with until the end of our years. Little did I know, that could have been the very next day.

Right before getting in the car to leave Tulsa and return to Oklahoma City, this group of people in the photo above (and a few others) huddled together in a prayer for both thanksgiving and safety in travels. This was nothing but ordinary. We always huddled for a prayer before leaving. My mother-in-law led us in prayer…thanked our God for our time together, for him dying on the cross for our sins, and for travel mercies. That the Lord would go behind and before us, Psalm 139. 

That’s the last thing I remember. Okay and telling our lab Pete to sit down in the back seat! I don’t remember the car ride. I don’t remember impact (thank you Jesus) and I don’t remember waking up for the first time in the hospital. But my family does.

I was trapped in the car for 55 minutes according to the police report. They used the “jaws of life” to cut me out of the car and get me into a helicopter. I was apparently “combative” (prove it) which is an indication of a head trauma. I was put into a medically induced coma and intubated at the scene.

Mr W was taken by ambulance to another hospital. Because of the location of the hit and the location of our seats, my injuries were more critical and needed a trauma level 1 hospital. He doesn’t remember it, but apparently Mr W was able to get a phone call to his parents from the hospital. His dad was put in the position of calling my parents. They were notified at 10:30pm and jumped in the car for the 5 hour drive. They called the ICU to get a list of injuries: her brain is bleeding, we don’t know how bad it is yet. Skull fractures. Broken ribs. Collapsed lung. Fractured vertebra. Dislocated elbow….she’s critical but stable.

My mom recalls clinging on to the words “stable.” My parents called my sisters and they were instructed not to leave until dawn. They broke the rules (only a little) and got on the road by 4 am. My sisters stories alone are worth the time to hear. I wish I could put it on all one posting. Even now as I type this I want to tell all the details of all the people. How my brother-in-law and two close friends were the first ones to get to me. The thought of my parents holding my  lifeless hand gives me chills. The words I wrote to my sisters on a white board, “where are your babies? Where is my baby?” The dad who sat with me through many nights, which were the worst part of those days. The infamous moment Kevin and I were reunited. The sorority sisters from Florida and Texas who dropped everything to get to me. The crowd of people who gathered in Kansas City to pray. Like I said, it all deserves another posting.

What I really want to share with you, is the reason our minds, hearts, and bracelets are laced with “Before and Behind”

One day I will write the post about the story of my brain. I’m still processing this story even today.

When the doctors had finally given the orders to extubate me (remove the tube I was breathing from) – I was finally able to speak.

What were my first words?

He was before me and behind me. He was before me and behind me.

He was in front of me and behind me. 

My mom didn’t understand yet what this meant. My sisters were confused. Who was in front of me and behind me? What was I talking about?

Shortly later my Pastor and dear friend from my Kansas City church arrived. I told my Pastor “you’re going to love Kevin’s mom. She always prays the Lord  would go before and behind us.”

It clicked. My older sister said “that’s what she’s been saying!” The tears started to flow and everyone realizes that’s exactly what had happened. When you see photos of our car, the only place that is left are the two tiny seats in the front. There is nothing else. He hemmed us in before and behind.

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What once was a 4 Door Honda Accord… is now known as the “Honda Accordion”

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As you might imagine, the tow truck driver confirmed in his 24 years he had never seen a car look like this with survivors. We had two. Myself and Mr W. We miss our dog Pete to this day and remain thankful no one else was with us.

I don’t remember waking up for the first time and I don’t remember saying the words “he was before and behind.” Like I’ve mentioned before, my memories of most of the time in the hospital have been taken from me. I can’t say this hasn’t been hard for me, but I know the memories I don’t need are gone and the memories I would like to have are the ones that have been shared with me. I also feel I can’t take credit for the things I said. It was the Holy Spirit speaking through me. You never know what you are going to say when you can’t control your own words, I’ve been comforted to know my words were of God’s goodness.

Purple bracelets were made with “Before and Behind” on them just in time for the surgery that put a stent in my carotid artery. The artery that was damaged and causing the bleeding. He didn’t admit it right away, but the bracelets were courtesy of my brother-in-law. Purple for my favorite color (Go KState!) We haven’t taken them off since. Not even on our wedding day. Especially not on our wedding day! 

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Speaking of our wedding day, I walked down the aisle to Chris Tomlin’s Whom Shall I Fear. You may have heard it, the chorus goes like this:

I know who goes before me

I know who stands behind

The God of angel armies

Is always by my side

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We have buckets of these bracelets. We pass them out and tell the story of the Lords provision. My mom gives them to strangers. I’ve given them to clients. I’m happy to share one with you. May these words and this story be a blessing to you. A reminder that our God is BIG and he is outside of time. He hems us in behind and before and lays his hand upon us. He knows where you are. He knows where you’ve been. He knows where you are headed. And he is with you always.

I don’t know why he choses to save some of us and take others away- I’ll wrestle with that until I meet him face to face. He knows the hours and the days of our lives. I’m thankful for the provision of having my life. I don’t want to take a moment for granted and I want to share the Glory of God will anyone I come in contact with.

This past week I went to a funeral for an 11 year old boy. My dear friend’s nephew who had battled with cancer for 9 years. An amazing young man. Someone said of his death “he has touched more people than tears we have shed….and there are many.” What a beautiful thing to have said about your life. I hope to make the most of the time I do have in this world. The Lord has left me here a while longer and allowed me a chance to have these words become true for me too. God Bless you Xander Moore and may we all touch more people than tears are shed for us.

10 thoughts on “He was Before Me and Behind Me”

  1. Oh Stephanie… Thanks for sharing. So glad you are still with us and able to share. Miss You!

  2. I am crying after having read your blog. God has been so good to you. And to us as well. Your wonderful parents allowed us to stay in their home when our daughter was married in March of ’11. Then in October of that year our 28 year old son was in a rollover accident and received a TBI as well. He is doing well. We are thankful the Lord spared his life. He’s not totally recovered but is slowly making progress. Interestingly, just the Thursday night before Dave’s accident, Chris Tomlin was in concert in our church here in Wichita. We were given tickets. Little did we know how that music would continue to minister to us in the weeks and months to come.
    God is good all the time!

  3. Dave and I were friends at KState! I’ve prayed for him and was so shaken with his accident. So many times I have thought of him through this process and asked Sarah how he is doing and am always so thankful to hear of his progression. He IS good all the time…blessings to the Schultz family!

  4. What a beautiful story of such a tragic situation. So glad you and Mr. W made it. So sorry about Pete. Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. Dear Steph,

    Thank you for sharing your stories, your wonderful recipes and for encouraging all of us to be better at everything we do. I will take to heart what you said, “He is before me and behind me!”. If we get to see each other again I would love to have one of your bracelets, purple is my favorite color too.

  6. Steph…
    Almost a year later and I still get tears in my eye’s when I read your words about this event. Know that you are loved by many! There are so many people across the globe that I have shared your amazing story (and website) with. My purple bracelet is so streched it is hard to keep on my wrist!! LOVE YOU and Mr W!!!

  7. Hi Jeannie! I’m not certain which recipe you are referring to. Although for bariatric patients there is not a set “serving size” in my opinion. It’s very individualized based on your pouch. I recommend taking small bites, eating slowly and stopping at the first indication of fullness no matter how much that amount may be. I hope this helps!

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