A true story from India, by Mary Warburton Booth
When I first saw her, my heart sank within me. She looked so far beyond any help we could give; and yet, there she stood, leaning on a stick, her body bent with pain, her face one mark of suffering! She drew her plain, unbleached, calico sari around her, and waited under the Imli tree for some word that would give her hope in her hopeless condition.
She had been very ill for a long time; her relations and friends were tired of her; besides, they were so poor, they couldn't afford to keep her, so they took her to the General Hospital, and left her there. Visits were very few and far between, and became rarer as they saw the hopelessness of the case, and at last she was dropped. Alone, homeless, and penniless, she suffered, and the thought of returning to her village home receded from her. She knew that she was unwanted; and she knew that there was no room for her; she knew they were too poor to do anything for her, and yet she lived on, but did not get well. Some days she was a little better, other days much worse, and then one day the doctor said that she was very sorry that she could do nothing more for her, except give her a dismissal from the hospital!
What was she to do? Where could she go? She could only just crawl about, and there was no one to help her.
News was sent to her distant village, but no notice was taken. She was not the caste that was valuable; the poverty of all her neighbors settled their attitude, she waited a few days and then ventured outside, and looked around for somewhere to die.
The doctor had said, "You cannot live, we can do nothing more for you, you can go now."
Once or twice she had seen us, as we passed through the hospital grounds, to see our sick ones there. She asked who were were, and was told we were friends, but the thought of coming to us had not entered her dull thinking until she stood alone, outside the gate, and then it came to her. Perhaps she could find some spot where she could lay down unmolested; she didn't want to lie down by the road-side among the beggars, and worse. So she gathered up her will to do, and started her slow creep along the road until she got just inside our compound.
I have never seen a more pathetic sight. A woman in the thirties, agony in her bearing, suffering on her face, and a heart breaking call in her eyes. Her only luggage was the one garment she wore, and her broken body!
"I came to ask---" She paused for breath.
"Sit down sister," said Tara, and she dropped into a heap on the ground.
"I am so ill, I have nowhere to die,", she said. And I know that we who stood near her had nothing to say in the face of such utter lonliness and desolation; we all wept together.
"God has sent her," said BUA. "I will take her in; let me have her, and maybe her soul will be saved" was her choice explanation of her offer. I watched Bua's face-the tender compassion of the Savior had filled her heart, and her hands stretched out to help. She had been a Hindu widow, and had sought peace and found it, but not until she had been many weary pilgrimages, and bathed in the waters that bring no comfort. It was after long marches under a cloudless sky, with the sun blistering her skin, as she went from place to place, that she met the Giver of Rest; it was in a "mela" too. She saw the light in the face of a woman like herself, and they got together, and in the night under the trees, not far from the sacred river, Bua opened her heart to the Savior, and He saved her from her sins.
"I never had peace until Jesus came to live here," she said to me one day, her hand was on her breast, and on her face was a shining that is the reflection of the glory of God, and here she is with us, living and working to bring others to the Lord Jesus, Who saves to the uttermost, and stoops to the lowest! Bua stooped too, and down she went to lift the poor sick woman up, and another stooped to help, and they carried her into the nursery.
The children rose to the occasion, and vied with each other to help. They had no money to give, but such as they had they gave lavishly, and love and service made a comfortable place with a clean bed and bedding and all that could be produced from their own store to help this dying woman to feel that Somebody loved her and wanted her. Then prayer centred all around her, and she was made to feel that there was love and a welcome.
Little children ministered to her, running to get the drink of fresh water, and doing any acts of kindness that make any life rich.
Big girls cared for her, swept her little corner, made her little bed, and served her gladly. Shanti asked for special needlework, that she might earn some money. "It was all a secret" she said, and I did not question, but later on I saw the dying woman clothed in a long pink flannelette gown. "So warm!" she said to me, "So comfortable!" She stroked it and a look of rest came over her face, and I knew that Shanti had bought the material and made the garment of comfort.
Sundri made it her business to see that nothing was lacking; she washed her and made her clean-no light thing! She loved her, cared for her, fed her, gave her all she asked for, and more, for she carried the Presence that meant Salvation, and the sick woman recognized Him.
One of our children, who is a trained nurse, was at home for a holiday. She forgot all about rest and play; she turned her thoughts and skill to this pain-ridden body, and we were thankful.
Little ones round her sang about the Great Physician, the Sympathizing Jesus, others told of Salvation that reached to her, and everybody made it their business to ensure that she did not miss The Way."
I knew all this was going on, and in my heart was a melody of heaven as I went about the compound. Then one day as I passed into the gate of the inner Nursery I looked towards her corner and noticed a light on her face that was quite new to her. I smiled and went on to the babies, but was drawn to her on my way back; she scarcely moved, but she smiled, "I am well," she sighed, "very well!"
"Jesus has saved you," I said
"Yes, yes, He has saved me," she whispered, "It is Jesus."
I sat with her in the quiet corner and listened to her troubled breathing. "I have a child," she said in gasps, "a girl of 10, I want her."
I thought she was wandering and just smiled at her.
"She is--She is--" and then very slowly and painfully, she told me where we would find her-she was being sold for begging purposes; she had a way of getting money and food. Could she be saved too?
We went out to search for her, and found her just where the mother said we would, but the question of bringing her was another thing. The woman who had her said she had paid a price for her, she was of good value, and the seekers returned without her. I sent again to say that the mother was dying and needed her, and with much talking she was brought to the gate. The money makers sat in a group aside, and the child was brought into her mother.
How can I describe the scene? The mother had lent her child to a beggar woman; the child had learnt the secret of getting, and was very really in the life of a professional beggar. How could she be saved from that life? She looked at her mother and was frightened, she had never seen such a sick woman. She had posed by the roadside, sat with the blind and the lepers, helped the lame along the roads, and led the blind too, that she might get some of their gains; but a woman with the signs of severe illness lying on a comfortable bed was something she had never seen before, and she began to cry.
Bua soothed and comforted her, and helped her understand. I went and talked with the beggars at the gate, and told them the child must stay with her mother for the present. They demurred of course, and talked a good bit about their loss, and I could see what they meant; but to hand her back over to them would be like handing her over to the Devil, and so the child stayed with her mother.
Bit by bit I heard the story. It seems that the little girl went with her mother to the hospital, and being full of life, she made friends with all and sundry. Sometimes people with a big question mark to their lives are taken to the hospital, because they are ill, and the child knew no difference, she was friendly with all. Patients soon found out how useful she could be, and the mother was too ill to see that the child was being weaned from her, so one day she disappeared. She returned in triumph the next day, bringing with her some of the spoils she had gained by sitting by the wayside, waiting with a blind woman until she felt like moving on, and then joining with another who was lame, she helped them to their place of habitation. She loved the excitement of it, she revelled in the ease of sitting by the wayside watching the passers by, and she soon learned the ways of asking and receiving.
All she got she gave to her mother, and after a few more days of hospital life, she was lent to the woman who had captured her imagination, and began the life that spelt danger.
The woman returned to say that all would be well. She would make an arrangement for the child; there was no need to worry about her; she would see that the child was happily settled. The sick mother in her utter helplessness sighed a sigh of relief for she knew that she could do nothing for her child, so she let her go. There was no hardness or cruelty as far as she knew. The child loved the life, it was so full of adventure, and an easy way to get a living.
Now the mother wanted her back, some decision had to be made. Who could help? To whom could we turn? There are such mysterious windings of the way to get at truth. This we knew, the child was the daughter of the mother; they are exactly alike. We sent word to the distant village to find that the husband and father had died, at least they said so, and we saw that no one cared.
The beggars ceased to come, and the mother and child settled together. The light on the face of the dying woman just shone more and more, and the little corner where she lay seemed full of peace. She seemed much better, talking was easy, she could sit up for a little while, and a gentleness was part of her.
The transforming power of the Lamb of God was at work, she was being prepared for a "Better Country," and the daughter knew it not; but she watched all the kind deeds done by little girls like herself, and she talked with them.
Several weeks went by, and we began to wonder what we should do when the mother was quite well, or as well as she ever could be in this world. The child seemed held by her mother, and yet she did nothing to help her.
I sat with them and read of the City where there is no sickness, no sorrow, no pain, and they sat there stilled by the Presence of God. Peace had come to the dying woman. Salvation was a very real thing to her, she understood it; and the light of the knowledge of Jesus Christ was hers. She could neither read nor write-but she understood love. She knew that love lifted her out of the miry clay and put her in a safe place, and if she could have sung anything at all, it would have been "GLORY TO THE LAMB!"
She was saved from a loveless and homeless life, she was saved from her sins, she was saved and going Home to God, and she knew it.
And one evening when the lights were low, and the compound had quieted down, she turned her weary pain-racked body towards the sun-rising. "Jesus! Jesus!" she whispered softly, and with a satisfied sigh, she was not, for God took her, and we stood with awe and wonder at the peace on her face. We know she is safely sheltered for ever and ever, in the land that is fairer than day.
THE CHILD AND THE DOLL
"Now what about the daughter?" I can almost hear you ask.
She had never seen death and it frightened her, so I took her into my room while the last love service was given to the body that had held her mother. I never cease to marvel at grace when I see how its transforming power makes a woman of the highest caste stoop to do all there is to do in preparation for the burial. Everything had to be done quickly, the climate allows for no delay, and the child needed comforting. So I placed a big doll in front of her; she sat and gazed and gazed at it. Never in her life had she seen such a beauty; it held little arms out to her, she looked at it, then at me, and a big question mark was on her face.
"The doll has come all the way from England," I said, "she wants to be loved!" And a little trembling brown hand stroked the edge of the garments.
"She talks," I said, but all her sorrow of her heart was uppermost. I took her into my arms, and then placed the doll into hers, and the little squeaky voice said, "Ma-ma." It was electric! The sad little girl sat up, looked at the doll, and then at me. She held it to her again, "Ma-ma" squeezed its way out of the doll.
She got up from my lap, settled herself on the floor, took the doll into her arms and held it to her, swaying her little body backward and forward, and bending over it in true mother love. She was forgetting her own sorrow in the joy of motherhood; had not that wonderful thing called her, "Ma-ma?" She crooned a little song, and poured her heart out in kisses on the mass of hair, and held it to her as only mothers can, as she smiled at me.
I left them together, the child and the doll, while I went to see how things were progressing.
All that love could do had been done. The family shared what they had to make the funeral a cared-for thing, the box containing the remains of the loveless, lonely woman, who came here to die, was covered with a mass of flowers from the garden. "She likes red," said one, and so red was the dominant color at the funeral. They sang a hymn, we prayed, and the procession started for the cemetery, I hastened to the child, she was engrossed with her new treasure, and I sat near her. She heard wheels, she looked up, and like a flash she pushed her new love from her, dashed to the window, but there was nothing to see. The worst for her was over. Again I took her into my arms and told her of the Beautiful Home all prepared for her mother, where she would always be well and happy, and never, never, have to go hungry any more. She sighed a sigh of relief.
"All who love the Lord are going there some day," I continued.
"Shall I go too?" she asked. Oh, how glad I was to tell her the Way to get there. She came to Jesus, and asked to be made His very own; and then with her doll in her arms she laid down and slept for hours.
Some people say that children soon forget; perhaps they do, but they also remember, and some things remain forever in their hearts, perhaps not often spoken of, yet the influence is seen by those who understand.
Our little motherless girl soon joined with the others in all their fun and play. She went into the school room and applied herself to the mysteries of reading and writing. But she never seemed strong, and after about two years, we thought a change would do her good, so we sent her to friends who live near the everlasting hills, where cool breezes come straight from the snows, and we hoped she would get strong and well there.
Letters came regularly. She was a good girl, gave no trouble, but she was not gaining strength, so she was sent to a hospital, and a very kind doctor did all that medical skill could do. She returned home, the same, and yet not the same. We could almost see her grow; she seemed only a child yesterday, and to-day she is a big girl! She can read and write and help others-but something has happened to her. There are sores on her hands, so she can't touch the cooking, nor can she carry the water pots; her fingers fester and then heal, and fester again; but she looks well, and is growing. So we decided that perhaps a change back to the pure air in sight of the hills would do what is needed, and our friends, always ready to help us and share with us, welcomed her back. We heard all was well and were content.
For three years they did all in their power to get her well and strong, and she was almost grown up. They sought help, and so did we, and again the doctor was consulted.
"I am not sure, please keep her from the others," was all that was said' and so into a section of the compound where separation is possible she went to live and suffer. I heard nothing more.
I was at some special meetings with about 30 of our family, 40 miles from here. It was the last day of the feast. We were going round saying "Good-bye" to everybody. Three women stood alone outside the church building. A quaky voice cried out, "Ma-ma Ji!"! and I looked to see the voice-the middle one of the three was crying aloud-great tears rained down her face. "Ma-ma Ji!" she cried, her hands stretched out towards me.
"Why do you cry?" I asked, "come to me." I shall never forget that long wail of heart broken sorrow, as she held out her almost fingerless hands.
"I am crying for love, I want to touch you," but she never moved an inch towards me. All my heart went out to her.
I ran to my room to get a little present to comfort her. I stretched it over the rails to hand it to her. She only looked and sobbed, and I sobbed, too, for the cry was the cry of our motherless girl, and she was a leper.
Note: she isn't one any longer.