James Edward Smith has been a fixture at his and his wife's business for almost eight years now.

Lately, he's had to slow down and take things easy.

Three months ago, driving back from one funeral service to prepare for another, Smith, 50, and one half of the Smith-Holloway Memorial Funeral Services LLC in Goldsboro, was struck by another vehicle.

The impact nearly killed him.

"I had been to a service in Fayetteville Dec. 15 and had left around 12:30 p.m.," James said. "Around 1 p.m., I was in Spivey's Corner at a light. I had the green light. This lady just ran right into me on my driver's side, hitting the door right behind me. She didn't even stop."

He calls his recovery and continued improvement a miracle from God.

The woman driving the other car was charged with a yield violation by the highway patrol.

James was driving his favorite white hearse. The car spun around and flipped a couple of times. James was thrown through the front window and lay on the ground unconscious.

He was between services.

"I was waiting for him to come back because he had another service in Kinston," said his wife, Karen. "With him being a timely person, once he wasn't here, I knew something was wrong."

She later found out that James had been in an accident.

"I called a friend of the family who works in the state patrol," Karen said. "I was told the car was T-boned and flipped and that James had been airlifted to WakeMed."

She said she was also told to get to the hospital as soon as possible because "it didn't look good."

"That was the longest trip to Raleigh," she said.

Once Karen got to WakeMed, she and other family members were taken to the family room where they learned the doctors were still working on her husband.

"He had a traumatic brain injury and some broken ribs," Karen said. "They had to relieve the pressure in his brain. They said it would be touch-and-go for the next 24-72 hours, to see if there would be any type of permanent brain damage."

Karen was allowed to see her husband about 9 p.m. that night. Her daughter, Kayla, was with her. The 21-year-old attends college in Greensboro, but rushed to her father's side when notified of the accident.

After the accident, James remembers nothing until waking up at the hospital, where he stayed for the next 21 days, until Jan. 5. He was on a ventilator the first few days.

"I buried my mother in 2013," he said. "But I saw her while I was at the hospital, and she said to me, 'You're going to be fine, you're going to be fine. You have to take it slow and easy.' She already knew it was going to be hard for me."

James had to learn how to walk again, which he did through physical therapy at the hospital.

"They gave me a walker and a cane," he said. "I told the hospital and Karen that God brought me back and I'm going to walk without this walker and this cane."

James used the walker and cane for about a week after going home from the hospital, then discarded both. He now walks on his own, sometimes getting a little weak, but improving each day.

He said the most frightening moment after the accident came when he realized he was at the hospital.

"It was an ordeal," James said. "My wife and daughter and family were there every day with me.

"The doctor told me it was a miracle. He said a lot of people with my kind of injury don't even wake up. He showed me the picture of my brain and the blood that was around it. But he said I was going to be fine."

Throughout the entire ordeal, James thanked God, giving him the glory, and continues to do so.

Karen said one frightening moment for her came when she went back to the hospital two days after the accident and found that her husband had pulled out his ventilator, feeding tubes and other tubes -- quite a feat since his hands had been restrained to keep him from doing just that.

"They said one good thing, they knew his brain was working because he figured out how to pull everything out, even being restrained," she said.

The hardest part for Karen was knowing how hard it would be for James to fully recover.

"He's a person who gets things done and is on top of everything," she said. "He's very productive. But he doesn't have that capacity right now like he did, and that's understandable. Now he'll do a little bit and take it slow and easy and not get aggravated. I tell him to enjoy life. It's going to be all right. It's not the end of the world."

Karen said it's amazing that James can feed himself, dress himself and even go to work.

"We take so much for granted in life," she said. "Then when you have something happen, you have to stop and think and smell the roses. Initially, we wanted to bring him here to the funeral home, something familiar. And he would go and sit in his office. But now he's suited up again. And I thank God for that."

James agrees that people take so much for granted.

"Every day is such a blessing to be among the living," he said. "Knowing what God did for me, for us, we just appreciate the little things, stuff I've always taken for granted, even the air I breathe."

The Smiths are also grateful for everyone who prayed for them and came to visit James in the hospital.

One visit, in particular, was especially moving for Karen.

"The family in Kinston who James was on his way to serve heard about the accident," she said. "One woman in the family lived in Raleigh and came to the hospital that night. I was sitting down. She came and kneeled down and began to comfort me. That just melted my heart. She was precious. It was so amazing. People care. It tore me up."

The couple is also grateful for the funeral home staff for pitching in after the accident to keep the business going.

Members of Best Grove Lodge No. 392 and the 12th Masonic District kept the family in their prayers and visited often.

"The community at large was supportive, as were different churches and pastors," Karen said. "And other funeral directors reached out to us, too, not only in this area, but in the country."

"You're looking at a miracle," Karen said of James.