Ms. Nellie was an 80-year-old African-American lady. She struggled with sugar diabetes that she called Ms. Shugala. Over the years, she had to have her right leg and three toes on her left foot amputated. The left foot incision did not heal well and it was a constant source of discomfort to Ms. Nellie. Her diabetic condition had caused blindness and she was also suffering from congestive heart failure. In spite of all of this, Ms. Nellie was one of the most joyful people I have ever met. Every week that I visited, Ms. Nellie would greet me with gracious warmth and "It’s so good to see you!" Ms. Nellie was a devout Christian and desired a volunteer who would read the scriptures to her, since she was no longer able to see. Since I am a retired church pastor, I was asked to take on this responsibility, and what a joy it was.
On my first visit, Ms. Nellie introduced me to Ms. Shugala. When asked how she was Ms. Nellie would respond with an "Oh, Ms. Shugala is acting up today" or "Ms. Shugala is behaving today."
Over time, Ms. Nellie shared details of her life story. She had a son who lived with her. Unfortunately, her husband had abandoned them when her son was very young. In order to pay the bills, Ms. Nellie took on housekeeping jobs. She shared, "It was hard work, but the Lord helped us through. He’s been so good to us!"
Ms. Nellie insisted that I read from the King James Version of the Bible. She said she was not familiar with the “newfangled” translations. It very quickly became evident to me that Ms. Nellie had memorized huge portions of scripture. I would start reading a Psalm and Ms. Nellie would recite it along with me. From Psalm 121, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help" and I could hear Ms. Nellie’s voice sharing the words with me, "My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth." From the Sermon on the Mount, the words of Jesus, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." And there would be Ms. Nellie’s sweet voice reciting right along with me.
Early on in my visits, I stopped reading, just to hear her wonderfully accurate recitation, and I was very quickly and gently reprimanded, "Mr. Steve, don’t stop reading."
My weekly visits were an absolute delight. On occasion, Ms. Nellie’s son would sit in on the visit, just quietly listening. Both of them would profusely thank me for coming and spending the time. I would always ask if there was a particular passage I should read. Ms. Nellie would always respond, "No, you choose a section." However, every time I went, at Ms. Nellie’s request at the end of the visit, we would share Psalm 91, "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." Ms. Nellie would recite it with such deep emotion and joy. There was no doubt to me of the deep devotion that this sweet lady had to her Christian faith.
On my last visit to her, Ms. Nellie had slipped into a coma. Because of her love for Psalm 91:11, I just felt it appropriate to once again share, "For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways."
by Steven B., volunteer