Mabel/ Taken from Thomas E. Schmidt, Trying to Be Good: A Book of Doing for Thinking People (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), pp. 180-183.
“On this particular day I was walking in a hallway that I had not visited before, looking in vain for a few who were alive enough to receive a flower and a few words of encouragement. This hallway seemed to contain some of the worst cases, strapped onto carts or into wheelchairs and looking completely helpless.
As I neared the end of this hallway, I saw and old woman strapped up in a wheelchair. Her face was an absolute horror. The empty stare and white pupils of her eyes told me that she was blind. The large hearing aid over one ear told me that she was almost deaf. One side of her face was being eaten by cancer. There was a discolored and running sore covering part of one cheek, and it had pushed her nose to one side, dropped one eye, and distorted her jaw so that what should have been the corner of her mouth was the bottom of her mouth. As a consequence, she drooled constantly… I also learned later that this woman was eighty-nine years old and that she had been bedridden, blind, nearly deaf, and alone, for twenty-five years. This was Mabel.
I don’t know why I spoke to her –she looked less likely to respond than most of he people I saw in that hallway. But I put a flower in her hand and said, “Here’s a flower for you. Happy Mothers Day.” She held the flower up to here face and tried to smell it, and then she spoke. And much to my surprise, her words, although somewhat garbled because of her deformity, were obviously produced by a clear mind. She said, “Thank you, it’s lovely. But can I give it to someone else? I can’t see it, you know, I’m blind.”
I said, “Of course,” and I pushed her in her chair back down the hallway to a place where I thought I could find some alert patients. I found one, and I stopped the chair. Mabel held out the flower and said, “Here, this is from Jesus.”
That was when it began to dawn on me that this was not an ordinary human being… Mabel held out the flower and said, “Here, this is from Jesus.”
That was when it began to dawn on me that this was not an ordinary human being… Mabel and I became friends over the next few weeks, and I went to see her once or twice a week for the next three years…. It was not many weeks before I turned from a sense that I was being helpful to a sense of wonder, and I would go to her with a pen and paper to write down the things she would say…
During one hectic week of final exams I was frustrated because my mind seemed to be pulled in ten directions at once with all of the things that I had to think about. The question occurred to me, “What does Mabel have to think about –hour after hour, day after day, week after week, not even able to know if it’s day or night?” So I went to her and asked, “Mabel, what do you think about when you lie here?”
And she said, “I think about my Jesus.”
I sat there and thought for a moment about the difficulty, for me, of thinking about Jesus for even five minutes, and I asked, “What do you think about Jesus?” She replied slowly and deliberately as I wrote. And this is what she said:
“I think how good he’s been to me. He’s been awfully good to me in my life, you know… I’m one of those kind who’s mostly satisfied… Lot’s of folks would think I’m kind of old-fashioned. But I don’t care. I’d rather have Jesus. He’s all the world to me.”
And then Mabel began to sing an old hymn:
“Jesus is all the world to me,
My life, my joy, my all.
He is my strength from day to day,
Without him I would fall.
When I am sad, to him I go,
No other one can cheer me so.
When I am sad, He makes me glad.
He’s my friend.”
This is not fiction. Incredible as it may seem, a human being really lived like this. I know. I knew her. How could she do it? Seconds ticked and minutes crawled, and so did days and weeks and months and years of pain without human company and without an explanation of why it was all happening –and she lay there and sang hymns. How could she do it?
The answer, I think, is that Mabel had something that you and I don’t have much of. She had power. Lying there in that bed, unable to move, unable to see, unable to hear, unable to talk to anyone, she had incredible power.”