It was Christmas day. I was 8 years old and full of the excitement and anticipation of most 8-year-olds — all wound up and bouncing from here to there like a yo-yo on a string. After our traditional Christmas breakfast and successfully littering the living room with paper and ribbons and boxes, we set our gifts aside, and our family of six piled into one small car to travel to a friend's home for a visit and Christmas dinner.My two older brothers were teenagers with growing bodies and busy schedules. It seemed we didn't go on outings like this anymore — not the whole family in one car, at least. It felt like a special treat! My 16-year-old brother, with newly acquired driver's license in his hip pocket, eagerly volunteered to drive. I remember having an odd feeling as we left the house — but shrugged it off, telling myself it was because I would really rather just stay at home with my new toys.As we proceeded down the road, all seemed happy and well as I sat in the back seat between my father and oldest brother. Christmas songs played merrily on the old AM car radio.Then, something made me glance up toward the driver's seat, and I felt a sickening feeling. It seemed like someone had flipped a switch and the whole world had been put into slow motion. I heard a screeching, and I became aware of my family lunging forward simultaneously and a deafening sound as our car was jerked to a sudden halt. Because older cars like ours were not equipped with seat belts, let alone air bags, our entire family was very vulnerable, indeed. Amidst the chaos I remember one thing — the feeling of my older brother's arms around me as he instinctively held me back, preventing me from slamming into the seat ahead of me, or worse yet, sailing right over it. Ironically, a police car was traveling right behind us. The officer witnessed the accident and quickly radioed for an ambulance. A confused elderly gentleman emerged from a car that was now intertwined with ours and stuttered, "I ... I ... thought you were turning ...," while pointing to an empty field at the side of the road.We were loaded into an ambulance and taken to a nearby hospital. I remember witnessing my brother — obviously in great pain — as he lay on a stretcher at the hospital. Our car was totaled, but as a whole, our injuries were minor: cuts, scratches, bruises, and sore necks and muscles. My two older brothers had both suffered knee injuries, which required them to be on crutches for a time, but we were all safe.After several hours at the hospital, we were all released and returned to our home. Our friends brought Christmas dinner to us that year. And, as we sat together as a family that evening, I remember an overwhelming feeling of gratitude that Christmas. Toys, gifts, and fancy meals didn't seem quite as important — but family did.The Savior, in his great mercy and love, had protected us. He had given me my family for Christmas that year.As the years have slipped by, I have also come to realize that just as my older brother reached out and saved me from serious injury that Christmas Day, my eldest brother, Jesus Christ, has also reached out, placed his arms around me and saved me from the "second death." He suffered pain to spare mine.And I have come to feel as the scripture says, " ... the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love (2 Ne. 1:15)."
Heidi N. Philpot lives in Plain City, Utah.