Are you old enough to remember the Blizzard of 1978? For those of us who lived through it, that Blizzard will always be our measure of the “worst winter storm” we ever experienced. We were living in Peru, Indiana, at the time, and my wife Marsha was pregnant with our second child. In fact, she over over-due for delivery by 10 days when the blizzard hit, and so it was not too much of a surprise when she told me at 9 p.m. on January 26th, “I think I just had a labor pain.” At that moment, I looked out the front window of our parsonage, saw the blizzard raging in full force, and noticed that our car was already buried up to the roof top.
We were supposed to go to a hospital in Kokomo, so I called the State Police to ask if we could get there, and the person answering the phone laughed and said, “Are you kidding?” When I explained our situation, the person quickly responded with compassion and said, “We will try to get you to the hospital here in Peru, but I don’t know if there are any doctors available.” To make a long story short, they sent a snow plow and four-wheel drive truck (there were not many of those around in those years), and they got within a block of our house, came to our door and helped us walk to the truck. I helped Marsha walk through that driving blizzard while the other guys carried our 7-year old daughter who had to come along with us. They drove through incredible weather to get us to the little hospital in Peru, where fortunately there was a doctor (a resident from IU Med Center serving in a program back then to help provide ER doctors for small communities). That doctor looked so young (I was only 29 and he looked young to me!) that I remember asking him, “Have you ever done this before?” He replied, “I have already delivered three other babies tonight – one from a woman who came in from the country on a snowmobile.” That was good enough for me, and at 5:02 AM on January 27th our son Stephen Michael Coyner arrived safely in the world.
We will certainly never forget the Blizzard of 1978, nor will we ever forget the many kindnesses extended to us by people who literally endangered their own lives to get us to the hospital.
Later I had so many people in our church and community tell me that they had been praying for us (I guess we had told everyone that we were expecting), and I know that the prayer support really helped, too.
We celebrated Steve’s birthday this weekend, and I know that he gets tired of hearing about his being a “Blizzard Baby” but we never tire of telling the story. It is a story that is repeated day after day all over the world – people helping one another in times of crisis. I may be naïve, but I believe there is something inherently good, a kind of God-given compassion in all people, and sometimes it shows through in dramatic ways. I only wish that such compassion would always be visible, but I thank God for those times when it is.
from Bishop Michael J. Coyner