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Mabel stands in front of striking quilt in Navajo style

Mabel Rediscovers Joy through Quilting

When you look at a quilt, there’s so much more there than meets the eye. Like the time spent cutting intricate pieces or the creativity behind the design. And, of course, the labor of love it takes to stitch everything carefully together.

Those are all reasons why Mabel, age 67, relaxes by quilting, sewing, and weaving Navajo rugs. The act of using her hands to express her creativity brings her peace. It is the self-care she has needed to work through the great losses she’s experienced.

But, for all her dark times, Mabel has experienced and shared brightness with many people along her path. Bilingual and enthusiastic about public service, Mabel has been committed to helping others for as long as she can remember, guided by her father’s positive influence.

Mabel’s father had a vision for her to become a translator and devote her life to serving the Navajo people. After graduating from college, she returned to the reservation and has lived a life of service ever since, especially to older adults.

Mabel has logged thousands of hours and miles traveling across New Mexico and Arizona to deliver resources and translate information to people in their native languages. She has directly impacted the lives of many older adults in the Navajo Nation and other Tribal Nations, including the Ak-Chin, Hopi, Jicarilla Apache Tribe, Mescalero Apache Tribe, Pueblo, San Carlos Apache Tribe, Tohono O’odham, White Mountain Apache Tribe, and the Yavapai.

After experiencing the devastating loss of her nephew, who was like a son to her, Mabel searched for a way to work through her pain. She dove even further into representing AARP and helping bridge the gap between cultures.

Mabel became an award-winning AARP volunteer, recognized by many for her service for the past 25 years. She was nominated for a 2007 AARP Andrus Award and was the first member of the Navajo Nation to attend AARP’s National Leadership Institute in 2014. She later received the 2017 AARP New Mexico State Director’s Award.

But, everything changed during the pandemic. COVID-19 had a devastating toll on the Navajo Nation and its people, and it turned Mabel’s life, personally and professionally, upside down. Mabel lost 15 members of her extended family, along with many close friends and community members. She found herself drowning in deep emotional suffering and developed a strong fear of the virus.

Mabel’s fears forced her to avoid socializing with her own family and community. She suspended her outreach to the places she once served. She felt lost in her mourning and disconnected from the things that made her happy. The only thing that gave her some comfort was quilting and sewing.

But there is light on the horizon. Now that Mabel’s fears of the virus are dissipating, she is cautiously ready to venture out into the world again. She wants to reconnect with people and rediscover a sense of joy in her life.

When we heard Mabel’s story, we were honored to help bring brightness back into her life! And what better way than by renewing and celebrating her creative passion?

Mabel, accompanied by her close friend Angela, traveled to Reno, NV to attend a quilting expo. Each day was full to the brim of experiences. In fact, they walked between 5 and 8 miles to view all the exhibitions in the expansive expo. Mabel said they walked so much that they took a break to go to the mall to buy new walking shoes!

For Mabel, the experience was joyful, exhilarating, and exhausting—but it was a welcome exhaustion that brought her peace.

Part of the fun was connecting with other artists and taking classes to learn new patterns and expand their skills. One of the highlights for Mabel was learning how to sew zippers. It gave her a newfound sense of confidence, as well as a zest to go home and start a new sewing project.

“It was great!” She shared with the Wish of a Lifetime team. “I cannot thank you enough. We really enjoyed ourselves. In the end, we were running on fumes.”

After her wish, Mabel shared that she is ready to bury herself in her sewing to rebuild her self-esteem and find joy in her life. She feels in her heart that her nephew and lost loved ones would want her to be happy.

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