If Tomorrow Never Comes - Marty and Traci Hearn
“Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed” (Matthew 4:18-20 MSG).
On Tuesday, June 16, 2015, Marty Hearn was listening to a gospel music CD and traveling the same route he had driven many times over to do some repair work on their trailer located on North Webster Lake. Without any warning, Marty’s pickup truck was suddenly struck by a flatbed truck that had failed to stop at an intersection. This caused Marty’s pickup truck to flip over, landing in three feet of water. The flatbed truck also overturned but that driver was able to escape and run to Marty to help. The seventy-two year old man found Marty hanging upside down still secured in his seatbelt with his head and chest submerged in water. He was able to pull Marty’s head from the water and tried to undo his seatbelt to release him but wasn’t physically able to do both at the same time. So the man stayed with Marty and continued to hold his head above water until more help arrived.
An off-duty sheriff’s deputy came upon the accident and called for the lifeline helicopter before taking a step out of his car as he believed he would find someone seriously or fatally injured. Then out of nowhere another man—whose identity is still unknown—came to Marty’s rescue. He was able to release the seatbelt, and the two men were able to pull Marty out of the water to safety. The second man was never seen again; he was gone as quickly as he appeared. They believe him to be a guardian angel over Marty.
Help had arrived for Marty but he had been unconscious and unresponsive from the time of impact. Due to the large area of standing water the lifeline helicopter was forced to land approximately ¾ mile away. The sheriff’s deputy felt confident that Marty would not survive. The EMTs transported him by ambulance to the helicopter to receive much-needed medical attention. The helicopter personnel also believed Marty would not survive, but while in flight he began to answer their questions!
After arriving at the hospital Marty was placed under medically-induced sedation as a “John Doe” because Marty’s personal belongings, i.e, billfold and cell phone, had mistakenly remained with the sheriff’s deputy at the scene. As Traci worked as a nurse at Able Hands Homecare that day her husband of twenty years this October was in Critical Care in a hospital where no one knew his identity.
The accident had occurred at approximately 8:30 a.m. By chance (?) Traci received a phone call at 2:30 p.m. with information for whom she thought would be a new patient. After being told the patient had been lifelined to the hospital and learning he had a closed fracture of the second cervical vertebra and a closed fracture of his thoracic vertebra, Traci asked the patient’s name. The nurse on the other end of the phone replied, “Martin Hearn.” As Traci wrote Martin on her scratch piece of paper, she asked, “Did you say Hearn?” The nurse responded, “Yes.” Traci recalls the immediate and overwhelming feeling of being ill. She then quickly asked for Marty’s social security number thinking there must be another Martin Hearn in the world. The nurse was not able to provide that information.
Traci had received this shocking phone call because Marty had been able to say “Traci” and “Able Hands” earlier in the day. This was the only contact information available to the nurse now on duty. She made the call not knowing that Traci was Marty’s wife. Due to HIPAA regulations the nurse would not share any more information which left Traci’s mind racing.
Family means the world to Traci. She is so thankful and grateful for her children, Tye, Brandon, and Kali; they united in the family’s immediate time of need and later were there to help Marty on his road to recovery.
Brandon and Tye (Marty’s stepsons) played a very important role in getting Traci to Marty as quickly as possible. While Brandon was driving to the hospital, Traci called Tye who just happened (?) to be working at the same hospital where Marty had been lifelined earlier in the day. When they located Marty, he was bandaged and bruised and wearing a neck brace; but Traci was never so happy and relieved to see Marty, touch him, and know he was breathing.
Due to the accident Marty was diagnosed with drowning and nonfatal submersion, traumatic brain injury with loss of consciousness of 30 minutes or less, bleed into brain, cut on skin on top or back of head, closed fracture of second cervical vertebra, and closed fracture of thoracic vertebra. These injuries most generally cause death or at least some paralysis. When his head and chest were submerged under water, his body never fought to breathe because with having sleep apnea—which became a blessing at this time—it had taken breaks from breathing for years. Marty has been told this may have prevented him from inhaling any water into his lungs and drowning. He believes he was in the presence of God!
Marty experienced great difficulty with his memory and acquired quite a sense of humor during his hospital stay. Even though he was bandaged and wearing a neck and back brace he displayed outrageous behaviors over the next two days that he would never have done in the past. Marty’s memory loss and his personality change began to create an uncertainty in Traci as she feared permanency.
But on the third day…our God is so good! On the third day a physical therapist was assigned to work with Marty. Even though it took three people to get him to his feet he walked and he talked! He now was capable of walking with assistance and answering questions asked of him. To Traci’s amazement the hospital discharged him later that evening! Marty had been lifelined into Critical Care on Tuesday and now was being released to go home on Friday!
As a nurse and as Marty’s wife, this decision made Traci very nervous as she was not prepared. Arrangements had not been made for the necessary medical equipment he would need for a recovery at home. The hospital determined that his brain bleed had stopped and therefore was sending him home. So Marty left the hospital by way of a wheelchair and shortly after, with the help of a walker, climbed the steps to enter their home!
Over the next four to six weeks Marty experienced many physical and memory challenges. He was unable to perform his daily activities such as bathing, shaving, and keeping his medication schedule. Not only did God bless Marty with a wife who is a nurse but a stepdaughter Kali who is a therapist. They both took great care of him. Again the family united to care for the one they love. The injury that affected Marty the most was an allergic skin reaction to diesel fuel that had leaked into the water where he had been submerged and dragged through to safety. It caused severe itching over most of his body. With a broken neck and back it was very difficult to reach all of the places that he needed to scratch!
Marty recalls what a big day it was for him when he could finally dress himself again! He is an extraordinary example of God’s Mighty Healing Power as he had received serious injuries from his accident on June 16 and yet was able to return to work as a Purchasing Coordinator at Weaver Popcorn in September! He is never going to get back what he lost from the accident, but he is proving that he can live without it.
Marty discussed his physical and mental health since the accident. He feels confident he will never dance again but says he wasn’t a good dancer anyway; Traci vouches for that.
He is able to do everything he did before the accident such as walk, talk, work, and drive. He just does it all a little bit slower since he has lost some of his balance and range of motion. He has no memory of the accident and very little memory of his time in the hospital, returning home, or visitors who came to see him. He sometimes loses his words; while traveling down that railroad track his train of thought occasionally derails. He has to stop, regroup, reboot, and carry on. Once while driving after the accident his mind did go blank; he had no idea where he was. But just a few seconds later he drove by Center Chapel Church, and he immediately knew exactly where he was! God is so good all the time!
Not only did Marty’s family unite in their time of need, but his church family did the same. He cannot express enough how much his relationship with the men of the Proverbs 27:17 men’s group means to him. Rich Thornburg and David Moore faithfully took time from their day to visit with him on a regular basis, and the entire men’s group united together to finish a summer project that he had begun on his own just a few short days before the accident.
Marty had previously removed the old lumber from their pool deck, and the new lumber had already been delivered to start the rebuild. However, he was now incapable of doing such a physical project. One morning as Traci was getting Marty ready for the day they heard a saw outside. They looked out the window to see David Moore and his daughter Molly working on the deck.
Eventually a neighbor, Mr. Becker (a former pilot for the Gaithers), with whom Traci had gone to church in the past, came to help also. He then brought Mr. Hotmeyer, a missionary home on leave, who also lives nearby. David Moore and Molly continued to return to work on the deck, and then one day the entire men’s group arrived to finish the project!
This gesture of kindness means the world to both Marty and Traci. Their fellowship and caring has shown Marty the kind of man he needs to be. The rest of his life he will work on paying it forward.
Marty attended the very first Proverbs 27:17 men’s group because Traci signed him up and told him he was going; he never would have gone on his own. There he has learned so much about scripture and becoming a “Kingdom Man” through faith in action by volunteering for those in need on a regular basis. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (NIV).
Marty wants to encourage the men that are not currently a part of this men’s group to join them because they are truly missing out on a great opportunity that Center Chapel has to offer. He is so proud to be a member of the group, and the men have become an amazing part of his life.
Marty discussed how he came to know the Lord. Marty’s biological father left when he was three years old due to addiction problems; because of this Marty never had an opportunity to have a relationship with his father. As a toddler Marty lived with his mother and siblings in what is known today as the Fairmount Museum. The Friends Church was located right behind them, and the preacher, Xen Harvey, took his mother and her young family under his wing. Rev. Harvey and the church made sure there was always food on their table and clothes on their backs. They always had what they needed. Marty realizes that even from infancy God has been looking out for him.
Marty’s mother was raised in a large Southern Baptist family and was very musically inclined; she could play any instrument and sing.
However, Marty claims he only knows how to turn on the stereo. Every Sunday they would meet at their grandparent’s home, and it would be just like the Gaither Gospel Hour. He grew up in an atmosphere of singing and playing gospel music, but they didn’t attend church.
Marty’s mother eventually remarried and the family moved. Their new residence was across the street from Union Chapel Baptist Church. He and his siblings were free to go to church on their own, but his parents were not interested in attending themselves. Marty became friends with the preacher’s children so he enjoyed going. Marty was saved at a revival at that church when he was twelve years old, but he never told his parents. In fact, he never told anyone. But he always went to church if given the opportunity. As a young man his brother started attending church regularly and was saved. He became quite vocal about it with their parents, wanting to share the good news. Afterwards Marty’s sister was also saved, but their parents did not want to hear anything about it from their children or accept it for themselves.
It wasn’t until after his stepfather’s passing ten years ago that his mother started talking to Marty about the Lord. Her health was poor and failing, and she now was faced with her own mortality. Hospice cared for his mother during the day and then Marty and his siblings would take turns caring for her every evening. This gave Marty the first opportunity in his life to pray with his mother. He holds this time dear as they were able to have some good talks, and this is when he received the greatest gift of having no doubt that his mother is in heaven today.
Marty attended church off and on as an adult, but God and church did not become a priority in his life until he and Traci met. Traci and her children had attended Upland Mennonite Church, now known as Upland Community Church, which is the church in which Marty and Traci were eventually married. Later in their marriage they became members of Victory Free Will Baptist Church in Marion, and they grew spiritually there. However, family is so very important to both of them that when Tye and his wife Ashley and their infant sons, Devin and Levi, started attending Center Chapel Church and invited them, they decided to stay. Now ten years later they joyously celebrated together as a family as their grandson Devin was recently baptized. Marty shares that Traci and Center Chapel Church have shown him what it means to be a Christian and how he wants to live his life.
As Marty talked of the Christian things that Traci does for others she began to reflect on her own relationship with the Lord. Traci doesn’t realize she is doing anything out of the ordinary because she was raised in the church and she is just doing what she has been taught to do. She finds it difficult to explain her faith to others at times. But her mother always told her, “You know because you know that you know.”
Traci knows she has been in the presence of the Lord several times in her life and she believes Marty was in the presence of the Lord at the time of his accident even though he has no memory of it or the following ten days. She believes he does not remember this time because God, as His Father, loves him so much that He doesn’t want His child to remember such a frightful, painful, and traumatic event. Marty shared that he remembered getting into his truck to leave that day; the next memory is being at home in his La-Z-Boy and not being able to move much. When Marty was able, they did go see his truck. He recalls that upon seeing the destruction of his pickup, he realized he had received a miracle as he stood there looking at it. Had he been able he would have fallen to his knees to praise the Lord.
Not only did God save Marty from this horrible accident but He has shown Himself to the family in so many ways throughout their lives. Traci shared just a few of those times such as Tye and Ashley’s adoption of Devin. Traci’s mother had battled cancer and won, but five years later it returned with a vengeance. The family witnessed Traci’s mother praying aloud regularly, “Lord, you told me to tell you the desires of my heart, and my desire is to live.” And she did. But one day after much suffering her mother said very calmly and without tears, “You know I just want to go home to be with the Lord.” And she did. The Lord had heard and listened to her prayers throughout her lifetime, and He gave her the desires of her heart. Now that is grace! After her mother passed away Traci and her brother had time to grow more in their relationship with their father and care for him over the next three years before he died. Traci is so blessed to have had that one-on-one time with him. She is in awe of God, knowing that He loved both her mother and father that much to grant them these gifts of life, time, and love.
The accident is a confirmation of what Marty and Traci Hearn believe and the God in Whom they have placed their faith. God is real and He is always with you. He has a plan just for you. But it is a wake-up call when an accident like this happens. They now do not let a day go by without telling each other, the children, and their family how much they are loved because tomorrow is never promised. Life happens. They live their lives for today grasping the opportunities they are given because no one knows what tomorrow may bring. Some people might say they need to “get their lives in order” before going to the Lord. As Marty and Traci reflect on his accident they realize how devastating it would have been if Marty had waited to give His heart to the Lord until he thought his life was in order. The Lord wants us to come to Him just as we are, and through His power our stories and our lives will then be changed. Marty and Traci hope that anyone who hears their story will have no choice but to believe and to see God in their lives. It has now been two years since the accident and they are excited to see what God has planned for Marty. They believe there has to be a reason behind his accident and that the Lord is not done with him yet.
Marty had his profound God moment after he had recovered enough to be released to drive. He decided he was going to finish the drive he had started to the lakes before the accident. Marty shared his life is very structured. He had a ritual of playing the same three gospel music CDs that he had made himself during his 80-mile trip back and forth to the lakes. He would start the first CD as he was leaving his driveway at home, and the last song of the third CD would be finishing up when he pulled into his driveway at the lakes. Marty considered his time driving and listening to his gospel music as “My Time.” He usually was by himself, and he could listen to his music and reflect on his life and pray. His CDs were lost in the accident so he made this particular trip listening to the radio. Traci was a bit nervous since it was his first trip to the lakes since the accident. She asked that he make contact with her as soon as he got through the intersection where the accident had taken place. She wanted to know that he was all right along the way. As Marty was driving through that intersection the song “If Tomorrow Never Comes” came on the radio.
In hearing the lyrics to that song he became emotionally shaken and believes that was his “I just met God moment” right there in the same spot where he almost lost his life! This made him to start to think. He has never known what his purpose was to be in this world. He knew he would never be a Moses, and from his carpentry skills, he knew he would never be a Noah because his boat would sink. But what he does know is that he is walking and talking proof that there is a God and that He still performs miracles today! The Lord chose to save and heal Marty from his injuries due to the accident and because of that his life has changed! Marty now believes his purpose in life is to tell everyone he sees that they need to be ready for whatever may come their way because if they are like him they won’t see it coming and they may not get a second chance.
In the last two years Marty has testified to more people than he has throughout his entire life! Marty is a quiet and reserved man but because of the healing power and love he received from his God he was changed! He now is willing to witness to a total stranger encouraging them to experience a personal relationship with the Lord and to give their heart to Him. He and Traci will never be the same!
On June 16, 2015, Marty began his journey to North Webster Lake not knowing he would also begin his journey in discovering Hope, Transformation, and Purpose in his life. Marty has been transformed by our Mighty God from a fisherman to a “Fisher of Men!”