On Friday, April 8, 2005, it was a chilly, raining morning. About 6 am, I was just finishing my route in Belmar, coming down Belmar Boulevard, and stopped at the light. The light changed for me to go and I proceeded. When I was crossing the third lane on the highway, lights on the right side of the truck caught my eye. I saw an 18-wheeler bearing down on me, coming into my front side door. I made a hard left and the truck hit my front right door, only a couple of feet away from where I sat. The impact sent me and my truck flying about 160 feet into the grassy fields towards the NJ Power and Light gas lines, which the truck narrowly missed.
As I went flying in the truck, a angel of the Lord helped me to have a soft landing in the cab. When I picked myself up, I asked myself, “why was I spared?” I was shaken but I only had a scratch on my hand. I felt that the Lord had spared me for some future purpose.
In the accident, when the angel gave me a soft landing, I felt like my heart was ripped open. In the next six months, I recovered from the physical shock of having the 18-wheeler barrel into me. After the first six months, and the shock subsided, the trauma to my heart began to to allow me to experience emotions that I had never felt before.
In the year that followed, my wife, Barb, and my daughters were confused as to exactly what was happening to me. There were days when I was angry for no apparent reason and other days when I showed love for everybody. I also remember at times, my love for Barb was changing from a physical attribute to more of an sentimental, emotional loving and caring. But as the months passed, it seemed like a roller coaster ride of different feelings that I had no control over.
Almost a year and a half later, on October 2, 2006, my uncle Donald suddenly died. At the wake, cousin Louise relayed this story to Barb and I.
The morning of Uncle Donald’s death, his son, my cousin Don, stopped by his house to try to convince my uncle to be more tenderhearted with Aunt Olga, his wife. But my uncle and aunt were having problems and my uncle had hardened his heart. He refused to heed my cousin and instead shouted, “I’m going to hell and I’m taking your mother with me!”
That evening, as he sat to watch TV, Uncle Donald had a massive heart attack and died. By the time the paramedics arrived, he was already gone.
When cousin Louise told us this story, my heart sank deep; it was badly hurting. By that time, I knew about accepting the Lord. Barb had been talking to me about this for a long time, but in that final month, she had been repeating this to me. I remember her emphasizing letting the Holy Spirit enter your heart and letting Him work from within.
But I wasn’t quite ready to give up my identity as a Ruglio.
My grandfather, Frank Ruglio, was a strong-willed person. Either he liked you or he didn’t and you always knew where you stood. He had a stubbornness and meanness at times but he also had a big heart. He also was intent to show he was the head-boss, which was something I always admired. He always knew what was the thing to to do at the time.
My father was the head of the family also. All or most decisions had to go through him for approval. My mom never questioned this. This was how I was raised. I thought these were great character traits to have and to show.
However, the problem with stubbornness is that you are not open to other people and their feelings. You are not open to the Holy Spirit either. You know best and that is just the way it is. This was the trait of my grandfather, and then my father and his brothers and it passed on to me and my brothers.
When Barb and I argued, it was always my logic against her feelings, and since they were only feelings, they were invalid to me. Once my heart was opened by my experience in the accident, I started to change inside. But the story of my Uncle Donald was the part that totally broke my heart.
On October 8, Barb and I left for the Poconos to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. She was reading a book by C.S. Lewis called The Great Divorce and we were still discussing the implications of what had happened to Uncle Donald.
The book illustrated, in a more meaningful way, how I was putting worldly idols in front of the Lord. It explained specific things that I had to do in order to accept the Lord into my heart. It explained how my life was full of sin, because idolatry was sin. I never really understood this before.
Also I had a heaviness in my heart because of my uncle. It just felt so sad that my uncle had said that just before he died and for some reason, I didn’t want to go that way. It just wasn’t right and it wasn’t what I wanted.
Barb and I continued to talk about it, and before she fell asleep, on October 10, she prayed with me, about accepting the Lord into my heart. She fell asleep, but I had a rough night. It was like a whirlwind came into my house, and it was throwing out things that no longer belonged. That whirlwind was the Holy Spirit. He changed my attitude, and I felt what I later read about in the Bible. He helped me to die to all the things that no longer belonged in my life. That night I promised to keep the Lord in my heart, for Him to be part of me. It was a very emotional night.
The next day, I had a peace and a different outlook. We went to a Poconos Christmas store and they sold items about the Lord Jesus and St Nick, but I felt repelled about the St Nick items, that he was stealing the attention that rightfully belonged to my Lord.
The next night the Holy Spirit returned to me for more house cleaning and afterwards a love and a peace totally overcame me that night.
I thought Barb knew what had happened to me, although I didn’t outright tell her. My feelings were so strong that I thought it showed. However, a week later, I realized that she didn’t know and this was how I told her.
She was standing at the sink with a cup of water in her hand. I stood up and took hold of her finger. “You can do this,” and I placed her finger in the water, “or you can drink it.” Then she knew.
All this time, I had been in a house surrounded by Bibles and believers, but I had never received it myself. Now, it was inside of me too. I had drank the Living Water.