A row of snow-covered cars on a snowy street.

My Guardian Angel

We’ve had three interviews with Stevan Lemke about his journey with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis – a lung disease that required a transplant. In this story, Stevan shares with us about his unusual inspiration to make a life change.


The vinyl job I’m finishing up in North Fargo was going well, the homeowner just came home so I can get paid. $200 for a day’s work in 1987 was pretty good money and enough for me to get to Colorado Spring’s. My cousin David had called a week ago and said he was having a party this weekend; if he was calling me to come out 1,000 miles for a party I’m sure it would be a good one.

I told him I was low on cash and my old beat up Chevy Luv had 200,000 miles on it, but I would sure try. The carpet job I did last Monday got me new tires and an oil change. This vinyl job popped up out of no where to give me enough money for the trip and a hotel in Sioux Falls – I wasn’t going to drive straight through as it had been snowing heavy all afternoon and I wouldn’t get done and out of town until at least 7, which would put me in Sioux Falls about midnight.

I could still make it to the Springs by early afternoon Saturday, so I wouldn’t be too tired to party. David called last night with some incentive, he said he had 2 ounces of coke, and our buddy Gary who I hadn’t seen since the last time I was in Colorado 4 or 5 years ago. Had more.

I’m waiting for the homeowner to write me a check while I’m loading my tools up, and Holy Crapola!! The snow was half way up my knees! Not my first snow storm…cash this check, fill up with gas, and hit the freeway on the 8th street ramp. They will be plowing the freeway.

Heading towards 8th street – now about 1 mile south from where I am – and I will be on my way for 3-4 days of just fun. I have the radio on looking for a station with weather announcements. I know 8th street will be plowed it’s a emergency route, 2 blocks to go.

I can’t slow down because the snow is very deep, and it’s all I can do to keep moving. If I slow down I will be stuck for sure. This snow is heavy for January 7th, so its not like I can just speed up and fly through it. It’s all I can do with my old truck floored to move along at 15 MPH. Just then a car pulls out in front of me, I crank the wheel to the right and around a corner I go, I can’t keep the wheels straight now that the snows too deep. I am stuck. Big time stuck, no snow plows out at 7 PM. I’m going to lose time now…I’ll be lucky if I can get out tomorrow and on my way. However, I can drive straight through.

Luckily where I stopped was by a church. There is a light on – they most likely leave it on all the time. I trudge through the snow and find a hand railing, so I can tell where the stairs are, because I sure can’t see them. I’m hoping the door is open – I pull the door, and it’s open! Wow, at least I won’t freeze. The door gives a big thud as the wind blows it shut behind me. I stomp my feet to get the snow of my shoes and open the second set of doors, which also open. I see light coming from a room down the hall – maybe someone is here. I can use a phone to call someone, or just warm up, then walk the two blocks to 8th street and someone will pick me up in this weather.

As I am walking down the hall I hear voices from the room. I hear a man’s voice say, “Some People get it, they understand. Those who don’t, die!”

I thought immediately, “I don’t want to die! I want to get it! I want to understand!” It was an A.A. Meeting, so I sit down have some coffee, knowing theses guys have to get home. I remember seeing a few trucks parked in front.

When the meeting was over one of the guys with a big 4 wheel drive pulled me out so I could follow his tracks to 8th street. On the radio they were saying no driving – all the plows were being pulled off the road. I have all main streets to home for the night; I can leave sometime tomorrow. Going down Main Ave I see the lights are on at Bottle Barn. “Of course” no driving, but we are still going to find a way to the Bottle Barn. So I get a 12 pack . Get home, crack a few red white and blues, all the while I am thinking of those words, “If you don’t get it you will die!” It kept haunting me. I dismiss that thought and start saying out loud to me and no one else, “Why, why, why???” I was so close, one block away? I blame the car that pulled out in front of me, the weather, the city for pulling the plows off. I was going for the party, but I knew in the back of my mind I was going to move back to Colorado Springs when I got there – I wasn’t coming back here.

So being doubly disappointed – a few beers in me, and thinking “Why does everything I try to do not go as I planned?” – instantly a voice, just like if someone was there with me, said “Quit drinking.” I felt like I had seen a ghost. I said out loud, “WHAT?” Again this voice in my head – but sounded like it was right in front of me – said, “Quit drinking and you will see things will change.”

I’m spooked out now, and drop to my knees…I still dont know why! Thinking, first this AA meeting, now this voice! On my knees, I’m thinking that voice sounds so familiar, but it wasn’t mine. It was my Grandfather’s voice, always the voice of reason. But he’s not here – I’m alone. I had to have a couple more beers on this, it’s freaking me out! I am recalling a couple years earlier I had a visit with a medium, who was very much a gypsy and seemed like she was the real deal. She knew when I was a baby I was dying and at that time I was given a guardian Angel. She asked me, “Do you want to know who it is?” I don’t know, I was still wondering how she knew I was dying as a baby? So I said sure. She told, “It’s your mother’s grandfather, who passed a little while before you were born.” Now I’m thinking my grandfather’s voice, his Dad could sound like him. The coincidence of the AA meeting and now this. What the Hell is going on?

All I know is I woke up the next morning feeling like I knew something, like a secret. A good, good feeling. Never made it to Colorado Springs, never did drugs again and stayed sober for over 9 years, then occasionally for a few years and sober again now for 14 years.

Learn more about Stevan’s resilience in these interviews:

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Further reading

A band-aid on a blue background. We talk about how unmanaged pain can be harmful in this episode. https://every1dies.org

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