A Father’s Worst Nightmare… and Biggest Blessing

by Mark Timm, CEO Ziglar Family

It’s Father’s Day weekend, and as usual, a time for me to reflect on what has truly been one of the greatest blessings of my life:  being a dad.

This year, though, I’ve been almost overcome with the emotion of what Father’s Day means to me, because just over a month ago, we nearly lost my oldest daughter in a car accident.

The day started out pretty normal, with the kids getting ready and out the door. It was a little unusual that our three daughters, who ordinarily would ride together, rode in different cars:  one left early with her older brother, one went with her mom, and our oldest, Mary, drove herself.

I walked Mary out that morning, commenting on how nice she looked in her official FFA outfit, ready for the banquet that evening.  After saying good-bye, I watched her drive down the driveway, and then went back in the house to have breakfast.

About 15 minutes later, my phone rang. When I answered, I just heard a low voice from Mary saying, “Dad, I had an accident.  And I think I’m underneath the car.  Can you come right now?”

Panic went through my body, and I just grabbed my shoes, ran out the door, and took off driving. I knew which direction she went, and as I came upon the accident there was just one car — a bystander who had stopped and called 911 — but no medics, no police, no nothing.

Little did I know that Mary had been in that car unconscious for about 10 minutes before this person showed up and started trying to talk to her, waking her up — that’s when she called me.

I jumped out of my truck and ran towards her car, just screaming her name, “Mary!  Mary!”  and from inside the crumpled up mess of car parts, I heard her say, “Dad!  Dad!”

The car was completely caved in.  The passenger side was crushed all the way to the driver’s side.  The car was flipped upside down.  I later learned that a car was coming at Mary on the two-lane road and crossed over the center line.  She swerved to avoid it, but lost control, ran off the road, hit — and partially climbed — a tree, and flipped over.  The other car never stopped.

I got down on the ground and saw Mary hanging upside down with her head in a pool of blood. I tried desperately to get the doors to open, but felt more and more helpless when they wouldn’t budge. They had been totally smashed shut.

There was no way I could get in to her, so I just started talking to her, keeping her talking, trying to connect with her.

I ran around to the passenger side of the car, and I was able to get my head and arms in through a window that was smashed out to hold her as best I could just to keep her awake and talking to me while everybody started showing up: firemen, paramedics … everybody was starting to do their job.

Mary kept saying, “Don’t leave me; don’t leave me!” while I responded, “I’m not going anywhere!  I’m staying right here!”

Because the rescuers couldn’t get into the car either, they had to cut the door off.  They managed to get her out of the vehicle and onto the stretcher.  She was pretty delirious (so was I, for that matter), but she was conscious, and that was the key.  She could talk.

But she was in a lot of pain in a lot of parts of her body, which is understandable.  They had to cut her clothes off and cut her pants.  She was wearing her FFA jacket, and one of the paramedics had a child in FFA and understood how important the jacket was to her, so he spent careful time taking it off without cutting.

After they got the jacket off,  they loaded her into the ambulance and took her away.  We followed.

Much to my amazement, when she got to the hospital, she had no bleeding on the brain, no internal injuries at all.  She did have a lot of cuts from glass and a lot of bruising from the seatbelt and airbag, but the doctors told us that she was going to be fine.

The report we received from the neurologist completely stunned us. He said that she had a double concussion, and that the frontal part of her brain had been injured from the impact, so she wouldn’t have had the capacity to use that part of the brain — the part that thinks, ‘where’s my phone’ or to looks at contacts to make a call — it would not have functioned properly.

What that means is that the back or bottom part of the brain, the part which is hard-wired for fight or flight and survival, is what enabled her to realize somehow that she was in trouble and she needed to call Dad.  Not 911.  Not the first number in her phone.

She was hard-wired to call me.

It was my —and every father’s— worst nightmare, but at the same time, every father’s hope and dream to be there for his children when they are most in need.

Yes, to see your child upside down and motionless in a car is beyond horrible, but when by God’s grace they wake up, for you to be there holding them when they’re afraid and confused; to be the one who provides that strength and comfort they need to get through it, that’s an incredible blessing.

Maybe this Father’s Day means just a little bit more, because I’ve so recently been forced to face the truth that tomorrow isn’t promised.

What an honor it is to be a dad; how fortunate I am to be a father and to be given the opportunity to teach, coach and love kids who admire and respect me.

Dads — and moms — we need to be there. Put your devices down. Be present with your kids. Be their coach, the rock they need.

We have a finite amount of time to be with our children, to hard-wire their brains to know without even being conscious that we will always be there for them.

I’m just so thankful that God spared Mary, and I know He’s got special plans for her. Life is fragile, and we need to just take advantage of every moment with our kids, our spouse, our family, and never take the blessing of being a parent for granted.

Happy Father’s Day!










  1. Frank C Morris June 17, 2017 at 6:59 pm - Reply

    One of my best Father’s Day was back in about 2004/2005. In 2003, I lost my youngest sone (Justin, 21) to Leukemia. I was still having a hard time grieving and I picked up Zig’s book “Confessions of a Grieving Christian”. It help me so much that I wrote a personal letter to Zig thanking him for sharing his experience when he lost his daughter. I sent it to his home address and never thought anything else about it. I knew Zig was a busy man and he had bigger fish to fry than to answer a letter from me.

    Lo and behold, on Father’s Day weekend, I received the best personal letter from Zig thanking me! I will never forget this letter and always remember that Zig had time for me!

    Happy Father’s Day!

    PS: I still send this book to friends of mine when they lose a child hoping they get as much out of this book as I did! Zig will always be with us!

    Frank C. Morris
    Arlington, TX

    • Mark Timm June 18, 2017 at 11:16 am - Reply

      Frank, I’m so glad you shared your story! That is one thing that I admire most about Mr. Ziglar — how he made time to personally connect as much as he could with people who reached out to him. I’m terribly sorry for your loss of Justin, and believe that you are such a blessing to those you share your story (and Mr. Ziglar’s book) with when they are grieving in a similar way. Thank you for taking time to share with me, and Happy Father’s Day to you, too.

  2. Marie Calberry June 17, 2017 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    Mark, you are a great Dad and a great leader for Ziglar Family. Thank God for being with Mary and for protecting her. May Ziglar Family encourage and bless families all over the world.

    • Mark Timm June 18, 2017 at 11:14 am - Reply

      Thanks so much, Marie.

  3. Manjeri June 17, 2017 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    Amazing story it was the power of your love and true grace. Thank you for sharing it is truly inspiring.

    • Mark Timm June 18, 2017 at 11:13 am - Reply

      Thanks, Majeri!

  4. Cindy Ziglar Oates June 17, 2017 at 9:26 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing your story with us, Mark. Wow. I can’t even imagine what you must have felt when you saw the car and Mary…except that I did see the look on my father’s face when he walked into my house after I had been thrown from a horse and crushed a vertebrae in my back. I was lying on the floor and he began to weep when he saw me. He got down on his hands and knees looking at me, weeping. We had recently lost my older sister, Suzan to pulmonary fibrosis and Dad was still broken from loosing her. I did my best to reassure him that I was okay. I think there’s nothing my fragile than a father’s heart when one of his children is injured. I am so very grateful that Mary is okay and that were able to get to her so quickly. We love you and your family so very much, Mark. Thank you for making us better!

    • Mark Timm June 18, 2017 at 11:13 am - Reply

      Thanks so much, Cindy, for sharing that story. I hope you read the other comment on this blog about how your dad’s book after Suzan’s loss helped in their situation too. Community, and sharing our joys as well as our pain and struggles with others, is what we were designed for. And we are blessed to be in community with you, Tom, Julie, and your amazing Mom! Sending love to you all, too!

  5. Shawn Langwell June 17, 2017 at 11:57 pm - Reply

    God was clearly looking out for you and Mary. Happy Father’s Day.
    Your blog struck a cord because I lost my brother in a car accident.
    I think of him often as he crashed 1/4 mile up the freeway from the exit i take to come home five days a week.
    Life is so prescious and short. What a blessing to be able to be there by her side so quickly.
    Best wishes on this Father’s Day.

    • Mark Timm June 18, 2017 at 11:10 am - Reply

      Shawn, I am truly sorry to hear of your loss — it is incomprehensible, for sure. I imagine you use your freeway exit as a bit of a blessing to think of and remember your brother, yet I can also imagine that it is bittersweet. Thanks for sharing, and peace to you!

  6. Mary Owen June 18, 2017 at 9:12 am - Reply

    Thank you, Mark, for sharing your life and your family’s stories with us. I held my breath when I first started reading your post about your daughter, Mary. How scary that was for you to come up on seeing her car upside down.

    I was the Queen of Worry over our 3 children’s safety so much when they were growing up. Now we have 10 grandchildren. And the worry started all over again. 4 of our young grandchildren were in the car with me when I hit a tree 6 months ago. Thank God none of them were hurt, except for me.

    I got a double concussion. Long story short, through the healing process, having much reflective time with my Lord, neurofeedback therapy, skull therapy & vision therapy, my husband & I have come to the realization more than ever, of the finite amount of time we have with our family.

    We live in a broken world and sometimes bad things happen to good people. I am replacing my worry habit with trusting God believing He is here with us at all times. I am leaving our family in God’s hands, instead of thinking somehow my worry can control anything. And like you said, we are putting down our devices and the distractions of our busy lives to be present with family in each moment that God gives us. We want to leave a legacy for our family, “to taste and see that the Lord is good.”

    I love reading your blog posts. Thank you for sharing.

    In God my heart trusts,

    Mary ~ Rocky Mountains

    • Mark Timm June 18, 2017 at 11:09 am - Reply

      Thanks for sharing that, Mary. I appreciate your heart-felt comments, and I understand your Queen of Worry feelings! Thanks so much for your support.

  7. Wendy June 19, 2017 at 1:58 am - Reply

    Thank you for sharing this story. Thank you for the wisdom. Her grandpa Zig protected her.
    May God bless you and your family always.

    • Mark Timm June 19, 2017 at 9:18 am - Reply

      Hi Wendy, thank you for your nice comment. Just to clarify: Mr. Ziglar is not my dad; he was a huge inspiration to me and had a profound impact on my life, and I am blessed to be so closely associated with his children: Tom, Julie, and Cindy. He was indeed an amazing man!

  8. mohammad June 19, 2017 at 4:08 am - Reply

    thanks to God that saved your Mary i think it is a Miracle in your life and i hope that God protect your family all the time.

    • Mark Timm June 19, 2017 at 9:17 am - Reply

      Thank you, Mohammad.

  9. Bill June 20, 2017 at 9:45 pm - Reply

    Mr. Mark
    It was good to read your shared story. I’m not sure I could have been able to function as you did coming upon the accident of your daughter Mary. I’m so happy for your whole family she came through.
    Myself, I too found out how a Father’s Day can change based on circumstances. On New Year’s Eve
    Of 2016 I received a call after my son had left my house earlier that day to inform us he had been in a very serious accident. About 20 miles to the hospital my trip ended
    With a look at my son whom seemed no badly injured. Within minutes my wife and I met with clergy and dr to hear he had unsurvivable brain injury. He was kept alive to pass on his birthday Jan. 4, 2017. This gave time for his brother to return from kuiat after arriving only 2 weeks earlier. I’ve been blessed by Zig for many years and still turn to him often. I appreciate Tom returning my call at the hospital and all you all continue to due to help folks. Glad your Father’s Day went somewhat as planned. God Bless

    • Mark Timm June 21, 2017 at 4:04 pm - Reply

      Bill, I am so terribly sorry for your heartbreaking loss. I can only imagine that this Father’s Day was emotionally draining for you, and even though that day has passed, you will be in my prayers as you continue to heal and mourn the loss of your son. You have my deepest sympathy.

  10. Carl Waterman June 24, 2017 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    We love this whole family and are blessed to know you all. So thankful God had His hand on Mary that day!

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