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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Meet 'Miss Noboby'

Thea's 80th birthday celebration
in our home!
   “Let's visit the old people!”

     My husband and I had reached Shawnee Garden’s nursing center, our one-mile walking landmark, where we usually turn around and go home.

John resisted, “I’m wearing jogging shorts!”  

“Elderly people don’t care what you’re wearing. They’re lonely; they only want someone to talk to.” John consented.

    After introducing ourselves to the receptionist, we walked down a long corridor where one small framed woman, crouched over in her wheel chair, stared ahead. Hmm…I wonder if her mind is as shriveled as her body.

     “Hi, I’m Pam.” She returned a skeptical look for our smiles. “I’m Thea,” she responded, gruffly.

Thea’s thick German accent aroused our curiosity, triggering a string of questions. She methodically shared pieces of her life story.

Thea grew up in Munich, Germany, during Hitler’s cruel reign. Sometimes she hid for days from the Gestapo. “I still dream of bombs exploding.” One explosion left Thea unconscious and seriously injured.
     During this cruel saga, Thea found great comfort in listening to Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. She dreamed of becoming a pianist, but her step-father squelched that dream.  

 When the war ended, Thea traveled to America, anticipating a better life. Twenty-years-old and single, she worked for Ford motor company for nearly 40 years and enjoyed many leisure trips. Meanwhile her mother died and she lost contact with her brother.

In Thea’s 60’s, she left the business world and became a nanny. Then a near fatal car accident left her physically disabled, financially drained, and without family. She landed in Shawnee Gardens at 75-years-old and became a “ward of the state,” –“Miss Nobody.”

     "People say I'm poor.” She paused, smiling. “I'm not poor! I’m thankful for all the good things that happened in my life.” Thea spoke emphatically, “You must remember the good!"

Thea pointed to her forehead and grinned, "It’s all up here. I try to think only about the good things. Let the other go.”

As John and I walked home that afternoon, Thea’s words shot like an arrow, straight into my heart. I had been entertaining life’s disappointments; self-pity crept in and I was nursing it. 

We committed to “think only about the good things” and we asked for God’s help to practice Philippians 4:8-9. "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. And the God of peace will be with you."  

During subsequent visits, I discovered Thea’s positive attitude, maintained by sheer determination, sometimes failed. I suggested she ask for God’s help, but her understanding of God had soured due to cold, religious rituals forced upon her during her childhood. Sadly, Thea’s inferior view of God kept her estranged from the One desiring to help her. 

But God’s love never gives up. He keeps drawing the lost to Himself with cords of loving-kindness; even the most hostile person, the young and the very old. God put His love for Thea in my heart.

 I invited Thea to celebrate Mother’s Day with me at Shawnee Garden’s Mother’s Day Tea party. On frequent visits, I massaged her dry, scaling hands, arms and feet with lotion, and with her permission, I prayed for her needs and read Scriptures that revealed God’s true nature. The walls around Thea’s heart were slowly dismantled. 

     One afternoon, Thea admitted her need for God’s help and she asked Jesus to forgive her and be her Savior. In time, she also learned that forgiving those who hurt her would set her free to love others. Forgiving her step-father was difficult.

     With God’s power working deep within Thea, she grew stronger, every day, spiritually and physically. From a wheel chair, to a walker, to a cane and finally without assistance, Thea lived a robust life. She proudly folded napkins in the dining room and helped wipe tables clean!  She comforted the sick and dying residents. In their darkest hour, she’d say, “Let go and let God—trust Him.”

God blessed Thea with the thing she missed the most---her music. While drifting off to sleep one night she heard her favorite version of “Ava Maria,” playing in her mind. “My music has come back.” She exclaimed, “It went on and on. I heard every note.” For days, she rejoiced.  

Two years ago, on a cold January evening, Thea died of heart failure. I miss her very much, but I know she’s face to face with her Healer, her Comforter, and her Savior. “The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22, 23).


  1. Having been a visitor of Shawnee Gardens for a year while my mom resided there, I immediately connected with this story. However, hearing about how Thea's hardened heart softened and allowed Jesus to enter ... hearing how God healed her to the point where she could walk without assistance was truly amazing, awe-inspiring, and further proof of God's incredible power to heal and restore.

  2. “You must remember the good!"

    Great reminder for me this morning!

    I love this story Pam!

    Thanks so much for sharing it.

    Please say hi to John for me!

    Bob Edwards

  3. wow. I'm speechless and filled with goosebumps! What an amazing story and testimony!! Oh praise the one who paid our debts and raised our lives up from the dead!