Up later than usual…Close call…Thankful

Here in Brazil, most of our trainings are in the evening from 7:30-10:45 pm. We spend another hour or so interacting with the On-Expedition training participants, before driving to the home where we are staying. We then have dinner, and are fortunate to get to bed before 1:00 am. Last night was different.

We got back at midnight and had dinner at 12:30 pm. Fellow trainer and son-in-law Phil (Graf) prayed the blessing for our food, including a request for his family’s protection. We chatted after dinner. Just before turning in (now 2:00 am), I received an email from Sharon. Here is part of what she wrote:

“I was just on the phone with Laina [our daughter, Phil’s wife] when we both heard a lot of sirens. She said they must be on Victoria [the street where they live]. Then they went quiet. I asked her where the kids were. Someone came to the house and said there was an accident and something about Kelton [Graf eldest son] having been there. Laina couldn’t get him on the phone. We hung up so she could figure out where he was. A few minutes later she texted me and said he was at the hospital.Apparently a driver ran into a retaining wall, demolishing the car. The car clipped Kelton. He was hurt but able to pull a boy from the car. My info is incomplete and missing details but that’s a summary. The police say it was a miracle that Kelton wasn’t killed. He missed death by just seconds. I’ve been emotionally impacted and so grateful that Kelton will be okay but so devastated by this poor family [in the car that crashed]. Laina will have some news when she comes home.”

KeltonI immediately read the email to Phil who was still up, emailing his family but not knowing what just transpired. We prayed and I sat there and listened as Phil called and talked first with Laina, then with Kelton  [now 3:15 am Brazilian time]. Kelton wept as he heard his dad express his longing to be with him, and as the emotion of all that transpired hit him. Phil cried. I cried too.
I cried again as I read Laina’s description of the events this morning (she gave me permission to include this):

“So, it is 11:44…..just taking it all in.  Here is the story.

Mom [Sharon] and I were talking on the phone.  Crazy sounds of ambulances, police and firetrucks were on Victoria. That isn’t an unusual sound, except they kept coming and weren’t fading into the distance. I became concerned. Mom asked where all my kids were. I knew where each of them were, the boys were just finishing up volleyball….While we were still talking, Branson [younger Graf son] came home in a car with a friend and informed me of a huge accident, and said he saw Kelton there.  Kelton’s back was to the road and police were around him, so Branson thought he was fine. I hung up with mom and went to check.

As I got closer, I could see ambulances pulling away quickly…but no sign of Kelton. I could see the concrete split rail fenKelton:Crashed Carcing (which was just installed) demolished and a pancaked car upside down in the gully. Police, fire trucks, and ambulances were everywhere and the street was blocked off with swarming officials doing their job.  In looking at the car, my heart sank as I wondered if anyone could have survived such a crash. I didn’t see Kelton, so began to call him….no answer…no answer….

Then I got a text…to tell me he was in the hospital. I ran back to the crash sight and the police asked me if I was Kelton’s mom. Every single firefighter and policeman told me that Kelton’s life was spared, and that it was a miracle. They told me he had been taken to the hospital, so I ran home, jumped in the car, finally arriving at the hospital which was swarming with triage. The police waved my in.

I went into the room where Kelton was and saw my son bloodied…and hooked up to all kinds of devises. He saw me and started crying.

So…here is the story,  Kelton was walking home from Volleyball, listening to music in one ear, and heard strange noises….the final noise sounded like a jet dive bombing him. He turned his head to look, and was actually hit in the face by a car that had been speeding and lost control. It hit the divider and flew by Kelton, some part of the car hitting him in the face, before crashing through the concrete split rail, flipping, and landing upside down in the gully.

Kelton was knocked to the side, gathered himself and realized there were people in the car.  He ran down the gully and first saw a little boy. He called to the boy.The boy threw his arms up, and Kelton pulled him through the shattered window. He took the boy back up the hill and set him down, then ran down to help the driver.  The driver had hit the windshield, was apparently drunk, knocked out, bloodied, moaning, and hanging upside down (car was flipped over). Kelton tried to talk to him but felt that he shouldn’t move him in case he had back injuries.

During this time,  a police man was on his way back from court ( a couple miles up victoria) and saw the car, and a surgeon was also driving up Vicotria…both stopped.  Kelton was trying to help the injured driver when he heard people yelling that there was a little 2 year old girl in the car…they all tried to get her out. Neither of the children were strapped into their belts or car seats, and the little girl’s car seat had covered her so Kelton hadn’t seen her (he later has grieved that he didn’t see her…as she might not make it).  They got her out, and into the arms of the surgeon.

kelton in HospitalThe paramedics realized that Kelton was bleeding so they put him in the ambulance with the two children.  During the whole ride the little girl was fighting for her life (cracked skull, and in and out of crying and unconsciousness). Kelton said that he, the paramedic, the policeman, and the fireman in the ambulance kept shaking her to keep her with them. He said it was so dramatic and frightening. The paramedic kept having Kelton get things for him as they tried to save her life.  Needless to say, Kelton has been pretty emotional about all of this, especially the baby girl.

When I got to the hospital, the policeman met me….I knew him!!! He had been to our house with another very bizarre situation at 2:00 am where a crazy drugged girl crashed onto our property. We loved him. He is the officer who rode in the ambulance with Kelton and stayed with him until the end. (God!)

The little boy that Kelton pulled out was in the bed next to us.  Kelton and the boy kept staring at each other.  Kelton kept saying he felt connected to him. The mom was so tender, so sweet, so young, so lost. I talked a long time with her.  My heart ached for her. The little girl and the mom then left on a helicopter to Childrens Hospital in LA.  The little girl has bleeding on the brain, a cracked skull, and I am not sure what else.  The little boy was released tonight when Kelton was released.

When we drove home, we stopped by the accident scene.  It is pretty unbelievable. The skid marks are enough to cause you to cringe.  Kelton relived what happened.  Every person involved told me that it was an unbelievable miracle that Kelton survived, and ended up helping to rescue the little boy.  One second later, and the car would have crushed him completely.

Phil called and was caught up on everything.  Kelton has been weeping since talking to his dad. We had a sweet dinner tonight….and have an incredible sense that Keltons life was spared miraculously by God.  I think it has hit Kelton profoundly.  It has me.

Our lives are a gift…but also fragile.  Our children’s lives are fragile.  We have to hold them with open hands.  We have to live them for something more than ourselves.  I am profoundly grateful tonight for the gift of life. For the gift of children, but even more for the gift of purpose.  We all have the opportunity to give ourselves to a God who loves us. Who keeps us. Who protects us. While we have the breath of life, I want to acknowledge that it is only a gift.  I want to continue to connect to a God who longs to connect to us. I want to live life with joy and freedom because of Him and invite others to do the same. I may never pull a kid from a trapped car, but I want to live for a purpose beyond myself…to stay grateful…to stay present with what really matters. (And, I hope to never almost lose a child of my own again).

When I got home tonight, I discovered that leaving so suddenly we  left the doors open and the 3 dogs (normally outdoor) had full range of the house.  I returned to find food eaten, dishes broken, pee on the wood floors, and utter dog chaos (they had a party). Real life goes on and it is a messy real life.  But, I want to stay in tune with the bigger story. I don’t want to lose the gratitude for the life we have and get to live.

I love all of you more than you know. Thanks for indulging me in reading tonight.  I know you each face (or will face) hard things in life too. I want to be WITH you in the struggle, and, I want to remind you that this is not the end of the story. There is something so much bigger in store for us all! I love you!”

Our daughter Kristin weighed in this morning:

“Oh my gosh Laina!!!!!!

Leslie [another daughter] called me yesterday evening to tell me that Kelton had been involved in an accident on Victoria and was in the hospital but no one knew if he was even alive.  She asked me to pray. I was so worried and shocked and instantly started praying.  All I could think about was that Kelton is your little boy.  I know he is a man now but it doesn’t change the fact that our sons will always be our little boys in our heart.  I was so grieving for you.  Your love for your kids is undeniable; I see it on your face every time they are around.

I was also thinking about volleyball and that if he were alive how it would affect this season and next (the athlete’s mother in me)?  I mean, his team needs him, and he loves playing.

Leslie called quickly back to tell me he was okay but being stitched up in the hospital.  She and I shared in the joy of the moment and then started singing the doxology together.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost


It was a sweet moment.  I am so thankful for our family, for the love and support.  When Cory came in from pruning a cherry tree, I told him what happened.  He responded, “I am so glad Kelton is okay.  I really like him.”

But wow, wow, wow.  Thank you for sharing the details.  It made me cry.  What a crazy, random, and powerful story.  What a miracle of protection surrounding Kelton.  What a selfish man to hurt, maim, and possibly kill innocents.  What courage Kelton had in quickly orienting himself and rescuing that little boy.

Praise be to God from Whom all our blessings flow!”

Others in our family weighed in too.

Praise God with us for Kelton’s protection. Pray with us for the family in the car that crashed. Pray too for Phil, as we have a week to go before finishing this round of training in Brazil. Here is what he just emailed to our family:

“I cried with Kelton last night on the phone…and now am weeping, having it all just really sink in…I so want to be home!!!  Thank You Father God for fathering Kelton, and each of us, as only You can!!!

I can’t even type anymore…”
Finally, here is what I sent to our family after receiving first report of the accident:
“A foot forward or back and Kelton would have been killed. I won’t go into the details that I just heard as I listened to Phil’s calls to London, then Laina, and then Kelton. Kelton was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and will be okay. He actually rescued a boy who was trapped in the car. A policeman drove by seconds after it happened and helped. All that to say, praise God for Kelton’s safety. Let’s keep praying for each other and trust God for His protection and guidance each day.
I love you each and am thankful for all.”
I am praying for your family’s protection and guidance too…with thanksgiving,
Linus in Brazil with Phil

One thought on “Up later than usual…Close call…Thankful

  1. We are praying for you all too – and see God’s amazing protection in all this. Thank you for sharing Laina’s story – she is so right – that we live with our kids in open hands and we also live for more than ourselves! So proud of Kelton and praising God for all He did in protecting him. Love to you all!

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