Savior drives a Cadillac

images-1Years ago, I was living in California and my father in New Jersey was diagnosed with advanced non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, likely to be fatal in four months. I flew home and my mother picked me up at Newark Airport. Befuddled and exhausted, she promptly got lost in a sketchy part of Newark, where we ran out of gas. Hospital visiting hours were almost over, but my mother had no useful idea besides: “Stay in the car!

I hadn’t flown all this way to miss visiting hours, so I jumped out to flag a passer-by and go for gas. “It’s not safe!” my mother screamed, yet more horrified when an old Cadillac screeched to a stop in front of us, and her worst nightmare, a tall, black man in a doo-rag, beckoned me to hop in. Her face in the rear view mirror was frozen in terror as he spun a 180 across traffic and peeled off.

I was absolutely certain this man would help, and reeled out my predicament: terminal diagnosis, no gas, visiting hours closing. “Don’t worry, honey,” he said, “there’s a station up ahead and I have a gas can.” I relaxed. Then he thanked me. He was on his way to evening Bible study, and hadn’t done his assignment for the week, which was to help a stranger. Here I was, a certifiable stranger, surely sent by a loving and patient God. He asked for my father’s name, carefully wrote it down, and said his group would pray for his healing.

We got the gas and roared back. By then a couple had stopped to hear my mother’s panicked account of her daughter driven off to a Fate Worse Than Death. We filled the car as the three of them watched in stunned silence. I thanked my savior, he thanked me and hurried off to church. I made it to visiting hours.

After five brutal months of chemotherapy, the cancer seemed beaten and my father was free to go. A slight recurrence a year later was stopped in its tracks. He continued regular checkups, building a pleasant relationship with his oncologist. Over and over, from across the country, I silently thanked my savior.

Six years later, the oncologist announced that, pleasurable as their meetings were, with cancer in full remission, there was no medical necessity to continue. In the press of the moment, I never asked my savior’s name, but I truly wish him well.


Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

Posted in Cadillac, cancer remission, Just life, Newark, WWWS
5 comments on “Savior drives a Cadillac
  1. Katherine Waring Smith says:

    What a wonderful story! I can just picture you doing that, too! I love it, and I love your “Saviour!” Many years ago, we drove to Muskegon, MI, for a hockey game, with our kids and others crowded into our old van. We somehow managed to get lost in a sketchy neighborhood in a snowstorm. We also got stuck and had no idea what to do. Some of the kids were calling for Jesus to help us out of our dilemma and get us to the hockey game. Out of nowhere, a burly African American gentleman appeared and offered to help push us clear. He did, and he was wonderful! The kids relish their story of the time that “black Jesus” came to their rescue! Our rescuers are all around us all the time!


  2. Gaye Evans says:

    What a beautiful story – thanks


  3. Gaye
    Thank you. I don’t know what made me remember it today, but there are times when, against all odds, you know you’ll succeed. Those are precious times.



  4. Iosifina says:

    Beautiful story. Angels do exist…sometimes in a Cadillac!


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Sunday, May 6, 2pm reading from latest work at Hexagon Brewing Company, Knoxville, TN.

Thursday, May 10, 6-8 pm presentation on research on the historical novel, Blount County Library, Maryville, TN.

When We Were Strangers, Italian translation, to be presented in Pescasseroli, Italy, August 2018.

Recent Review
“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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