The time to give up on people is…never

20 years ago, Sarah Scantlin was hit by a drunk driver, badly injured, brain damaged and comatose – she underwent a partial lobotomy, on the part of the brain that governs speech..

A month later, she came out of coma, but things seemed hopeless. She was, however, provided with therapy.

20 years later, she…she begins to speak, thanks, largely it seems, to one woman who is untrained in speech therapy or neurology, but who saw the whole person that is Sarah. God’s Sarah, if you like.

Four years ago, Pat Rincon came to work at Golden Plains…Pat wasn’t trained in speech therapy, neurology, brain damage, but she could see people beyond the drool and the incapacitation. She could hear voices silenced by stroke, could see into the vacuum of Alzheimer’s. Could hear silent, frozen Sarah speak. She was just a tool, she said.

She believed there was something inside each one that wanted to come out.

Pat says she would stroke Sarah’s face. Cradle her head like a baby and coooooo: “Say ‘I love you.’

“Say: ‘Who am I?’ Say, ‘My name is SAAARAH.’ Yes, that’s right. ‘SARah. SarAAAH.’ ”

For four years, Pat cooooooed at Sarah, for 20 minutes a day, listening to Sarah’s silent language, filling her patient with the kind of love that strangers reserve for people and things that cannot speak for themselves.

If Sarah made any sound, Pat would praise her, “Yes, that’s right. You got it. I love you, Sarah. Do you love Pat?”

Sarah would blink.

The sessions were intense, with Pat looking deep into Sarah’s eyes, trying to penetrate, break that lock on her voice.

“Are you glad to see me?” Pat would say. “Look at that smile. Now relax your arm. Relax, sweetheart. Say, my name is Sarah. Say, I’m hungry. Say, I’m thirsty. Say, I want to eat. I want to talk. Are you ready to talk? Yes, you are ready to talk.”

Sarah would blink. And deep inside that face in which others saw only blank stares, Pat Rincon saw a flicker.

Surely this if there is a miracle, it is that a quite-ordinary woman, with extraordinary compassion and respect for humanity, and unflappable faith, was able to make herself an instrument through which strength and healing flow…not by her “worthiness,” but by her “willingness.”

But most miracles are about willingness over worthiness, aren’t they?

This is a moving story – you’ll want to read it all. When Sarah was asked if she knew “about New York,” she replied, “planes…smoke…” apparently while she was “gone,” Sarah was still here. Sarah’s family maintains that her case is nothing like Terri Sciavo’s and they want no associations made. And they may be right to feel that way. I can’t say. No one can really say but God.

But you read this and cannot help but wonder if therapy and a working television might not have helped. Doctors are not always right. The human brain and the human spirit are still great mysteries. So, is God. So, is Love.

Let us give thanks for Sarah’s recovery of speech, against all odds and the absence of that part of her brain. Let us give thanks for people like Pat Rincon, and to God, with whom all things are possible, and whose mercy endures forever!

For it was you who formed my
inmost being
You knit me together in
my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am
fearfully, wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works…
Psalm 139; 13-14

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