The Thanksgiving We Almost Died

autumn maple leaf isolated on white background

NOTE: This is a re-post of an article from the blog archives that I post almost every year. 2018 is the 32nd anniversary of this true story.

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The baby was six months old and he wasn’t quite crawling yet. He happily joined in the general noise and play of his two sisters and a brother, ages twenty-two months, three and four. Four little children, aged four and under.

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We were living in a small white frame house while my husband went to college and worked full-time. My days were spent changing diapers, doing laundry and reading aloud toddler books, but I was doing what I had always dreamed of doing and it was a happy time.

Thanksgiving was approaching and the weather had turned bitterly cold. We were grateful that our old floor furnace had been replaced a few days earlier. With the old furnace, we had to turn the heater off and on by hand according to the temperature of the house. At last we had a working thermostat, so the house stayed comfortable.

A couple of days before the holiday, the children and I came down with the flu, one by one. It started out with mild nausea but as the hours passed, the nausea became severe and was joined by a splitting headache.

My husband was in and out of the house, attending class and working, but by Thanksgiving Eve he, too, succumbed to the illness. When he was in the beginning stages of feeling sick, something odd began happening.

One by one, friends and family began to show up on our front porch. Some had heard we were sick and they brought food or wanted to check on us. One person brought a gift from a Sunday School class. No one wanted to catch the bug, so they all stood on the porch to talk, and my husband held the door open, secretly wishing they would all go away and let us rest.

We later counted and estimated twenty-six visits. Odd indeed.

The last visitor left at around 10:30 p.m. and we tried to go to sleep. By that time we were so sick we didn’t even bother to clean up the mess. We just moved to a different spot. The night passed as if in a nightmare.

Thanksgiving morning dawned but there was no turkey in the oven. There was a strange, silent atmosphere in the house. Everyone had reached a point of either crying about their headache, being sick or passing out, literally. The baby would rock on his hands and knees, and then collapse and sleep. I felt an odd detachment and I remember thinking that I felt so sick that if one of the children had died I wouldn’t care.

By mid-morning I finally decided to call our family doctor. He told me that the flu was going around and it was Thanksgiving and we could call him back tomorrow. A little while later I called again. I told him we couldn’t stand the headache anymore and my babies were crying. He reluctantly agreed to meet us at his office.

We staggered around and loaded four little ones in car seats. We took bowls to pass around on the trip.

When we reached the doctor’s office he took one look at me and ordered us to the hospital emergency room.

At the ER I went inside and left my husband in the car with the babies, as they were all too sick to unbuckle car seats and walk inside. A painful but quick test for my blood gas levels found a carbon monoxide level of two hundred times normal.

The hospital staff went into action. Someone yelled “there are babies in the car!” and somehow they got everyone inside and on oxygen within moments.

We were later told that our pastor and a friend went into our house to get some things for us. They said that the house had an eerie feeling of something very wrong.

A friend who worked at the local gas company went into the house with a carbon monoxide detector and it turned black when he stepped in the front door. The gas company later told us that we would never have made it through the second night.

A furnace exhaust pipe had been completely clogged by a squirrel’s nest, and turning the old furnace off regularly let enough fresh air in to prevent harm. The constant running of the new furnace allowed the levels of lethal gas to build up.

The only thing that saved us the first night was all the fresh air that had been let into the house by the front door standing open twenty-six times with all the visitors.

Those visitors stood between us and six caskets.

We talked to several of our visitors later and they couldn’t explain why they came by. One of them was my husband’s brother, and he was getting married in a few days so he had a good reason to avoid exposure to the flu. Yet he came and brought food and stood on the porch in the cold because he felt compelled to do so.

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We believe that God used every one of those people to save our lives.

But what if half of those people had brushed off the thought to visit by explaining it away or deciding they were too busy?

We never know how our small actions and acts of encouragement fit in the plan for others.

Every Thanksgiving we recall that milestone holiday, and are overwhelmed with gratitude that our lives were spared. My husband went on to become a pastor. Those four little children grew up and became 1) a teacher and mother, 2) a photographer and manager of a busy bike shop in a college town, 3) a photographer, musician and mother, and 4) an investigator in the state Attorney General’s office. They were joined by eight younger siblings who will also impact the world:

This Thanksgiving, be mindful of little nudges to encourage and minister to others. You will make their day….and you might save a life.

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31 thoughts on “The Thanksgiving We Almost Died”

  1. Charlotte, what an amazing story! Thank you so much for sharing it. So much to be grateful for, and I would add that He also used those people to save your husband for all the people he has influenced and you for all those whose lives you’ve touched and helped. Thank you for the reminder that it’s absolutely crucial to follow that still small voice and His nudges. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Yall are Amazeing people..God new yall had a purpose. In lfe hear on earth.Yall maynot think people listen to things you both may say,but thier are more people listening than you think.Thanks for speading the words of the lord.People need to hear it,keeps them on right trake with god.He. has a purpose for you two……Thanks for being you…

    1. I join in this celebration and use it doublefold to say Happy Thanksgiving to lovely Donella. Beautiful 30th year celebration of the day of the little Big nudge, Charlotte.

  3. Oh Charlotte, thanks for taking the time to share this. I’m sending it on as a reminder to others not only to listen as the Holy Spirit nudges us but to take action. Have a blessed Thanksgiving, my friend.

  4. This beautiful testimony of God’s divine protection was a blessing to us this morning! Amazing story of the concerned people that came to be a blessing with food and God used them in another way to save your life. If only we would be more aware of the awesome opportunities God gives us daily to be a blessing or encouragement to others…our world would be a different place! Thank you for living a genuine Christian life!

  5. God works in mysterious ways, doesn’t he???? and we are so thankful He does. Similar thing happened to our family of 4. We were in an old school bus turned into Camp bus. We live in Ok but were in the woods of Wyoming and had to get propane for our refrigerator. I kept telling my husband that there was something wrong and he didn’t smell anything, said just go to sleep. Got woke up by our daughter throwing up. And I woke up with a horrible headache and felt queasy too. He got us all outside and turned off the propane burner till later on and had to clean the carbon out of the gas lines. So we almost died that night. Thanks to my wonderful sense of smell, God intervened.

  6. no dry eyes here. Thanks for sharing, Charlotte! Good to meet you in irks do and to work on the same team. So thankful for God sparing your lives! Your family is absolutely beautiful!!

  7. Wow.. Really touched by your story.. And it has encouraged me to respond to the nudges from the Holy Spirit. It is a truly a matter of life and death for someone and we need to respond and act… Thanks again for sharing the story…God loves us so much.. Thank you Lord.

  8. I really enjoyed your story of how God will take care of His children. I like to write short stories for our little church paper. Would you mind if I put this in my own words for a short story for others to read? Thanks, Michelle

  9. This story hit close to home. Last year our family was renting because we had just sold our home and were looking for the right one to buy. The old furnace was malfunctioning and releasing lower levels of CO into the home. The children often had headaches, but I think the drafty old house kept it from being worse. Funny, I often complained about the cold and drafty house, but afterwards couldn’t stop thanking the Lord for it. I kept hearing a strange hissing noise from the furnace. I finally called the Landlord and asked if someone could come look at it. I figured it wouldn’t make the noise while they were there and everyone would think I was crazy. The technician worked on it for a bit and suddenly went out to his truck and returned with a CO detector. He said he just “had a feeling” and checked the CO level at a vent. The levels were too high, the furnace was condemned, and he had to shut it down. The levels were high enough to make the children have headaches he said. It was no where as serious as your family’s situation, but it has changed our lives and we often look back on it with thanks that it wasn’t worse. There was a crack in a plate that was allowing the CO to get back into the air in the house. It never got high enough to set off our alarm which I credit to the drafty old house and to God. I often tell people to make sure their home has a CO detector. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Wow! Charlotte. If I ever heard you tell that story, I had completely forgotten it. God is so good to his children!

  11. Charlotte-this is amazing. Thank God for bringing those visitors! Man I’m so thankful for His protection over you and family. All of SHINE is too!! Happy Thanksgiving!

  12. Charlotte, Thank you for sharing this again. We can never be reminded enough of God’s faithfulness, can we? Especially during times of doubt and discouragement, we can read of God’s care for His children in His Word, as well as stories like yours where God clearly intervened to shower you with mercy and to advance His Kingdom! Let’s pray for each other as we all have situations where God is at work, but it is not always so obvious. He is worthy of our whole-hearted devotion! “There hath not failed one word of all His good promise.” 1 Kings 8:56

  13. What an inspirational story of a faithful God who always walks ahead of us We have to listen to his voice everyday and every moment of the day as Holy Spirit speaks to us and nudges us to do the work he has declared for us and walk in obedience to his plans for us. Just as your friends did. May we all remember how much we all have to be thankful if we just open our eyes. Happy Thanksgiving.

  14. Hey Charlotte I remember reading this amazing story in the past!!! It is such an amazing story how God was with you when you didn’t understand what was going on!!! Thank God you were saved that dreadful day!!! I hope you have an amazing Thanksgiving!!! God Bless you and your family!!

  15. I’ve read this story several times and I’m touched each and every time. Thank you for sharing. I hope that I’m always open and responsive to God’s nudges.

  16. I love this story. I love your family and I love you. You are a blessing and an encouragement to all who hear you and more. Am praying to be more sensitive to the Spirit’s promptings. Merry Merry CHRISTmas!!!

  17. Truely amazing. I read the story before but it still doesnt stop to amaze me. And also its a reminder to me to not ignore the small nudging of the Holy Spirit. It could mean the difference between life and death for someone.

  18. Thank you for posting this story again! It is an amazing testimony to see how wonderful God is and how he takes care of us. Love it keep posting it yearly!

  19. Wow! That’s truly an astonishing story of survival! I had tears for how sick you all were and realized that I have never been that sick from a stomach virus. Bless you all! You had angels watching over you for sure.

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