For all followers of Christ, the cross represents a symbol of salvation in their walk with God. But for Father Michael Kirkland, the cross may have been a literal saving grace after a two-car accident in Delaware earlier this month.
On Thursday, Dec. 10, Kirkland was attempting to turn across northbound traffic on U.S. Route 23 onto Cottswold Drive. Kirkland said he was going to pick up Christmas decorations for his wife, and as he waited to make the turn, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
“I look over and I see as much clear distance as I’ve always seen,” Kirkland said. “It looked perfectly safe to make the turn. As I turned into the intersection, though, I saw that the vehicle in the furthest lane was going faster than what I had originally judged.”
He was struck by the oncoming car, which barely had a chance to slow down, on the front, passenger side of the car, sending both vehicles spinning out of control. Despite both cars being totaled, both drivers were able to avoid serious injuries. Kirkland was fortunate to escape without as much as a broken bone, although he said he still has bruises encompassing nearly the entire length of his legs.
The damage was nearly far worse for Kirkland, who was cited for the accident, a realization he said wasn’t made until he was at the hospital following the wreck.
“The doctor asked me, ‘Have you seen your cross (necklace)?’ I looked at it and the bottom part of it was totally bent, and I’m thinking, ‘What in the world happened to it?’”
Kirkland, who owns Emergency Bail Bonds located at 73 N. Sandusky St. in downtown Delaware, began wearing his necklace nearly 40 years ago when he was first ordained as an orthodox priest. The cross features a pure bronze cross pendant, about an eighth of an inch thick, he said. After talking to the doctor and nurse about the moment of the wreck and the details of the crash, Kirkland said he recalled the steering wheel had pushed into the cross, bending the pendant.
“You can’t bend this cross at all,” Kirkland said. “The force of the thrust that it took to bend it … And we’re talking my chest and stomach area and everything that’s on the other side of that cross. I didn’t feel a thing. There are no indications of any indentations or bruises on my chest or stomach. That’s a Christmas miracle.”
Kirkland said it’s difficult to think what type of damage the steering wheel might have done to his midsection had the cross not absorbed the entirety of the blow, speculating the steering wheel “might have gone through me.”
“Everybody that I’ve talked to and who saw the damage to the cars all have said the same thing. They ask me how I even walked away from it,” Kirkland said. “All I can say is God worked a miracle, and I truly believe that.
“It just baffles me to no end. I’ve been a priest for 40 years, and I’m always telling people to expect a miracle, that God is with us all the time. I pray all the time for protection when I’m driving. This was just one of those times where something happened and I can literally say I was saved by the cross of Christ.”
That his life was spared was a particular blessing to Kirkland given the condition of his wife, who he said is not in good health and needs him to be around.
“I cannot go home (to God) right now,” Kirkland said. “I have to be there for her … If it’s God’s will, I have to stay. And apparently, it is his will.”
Moving forward, Kirkland said his faith is now stronger than ever before, and he will make the most of God’s grace by continuing to devote himself to his work as a priest and in his secular position as a bail bondsman, which he calls a jail ministry of sorts.
“You’re in a position where you can talk to people at their worst times, and I find it great wearing two hats as a priest and a licensed agent because it gives me liberty where I can talk about God all the time … I’ve helped an awful lot of residents and it’s been tremendous,” Kirkland said.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.