A woman living in Oregon believes she may have been the armless infant being cuddled by a smiling Mother Teresa in a famous photograph of the late nun.
Amanda Mays, who was rescued from the slums of Calcutta, told The Bulletin newspaper of Bend, Ore., that she has been told often that it’s her in the 1978 photo by Eddie Adams, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for The Associated Press.
As an infant, Mays was abandoned by her parents at the Missionaries of Charity orphanage in India. Mother Teresa then saved the life of a baby known to the nuns only as Miss Teresa.
“She had taken notice of me, obviously, because I didn’t have any arms,” Mays said. “I was always told that she saw the spark of life and intelligence in me, and knew that if I had stayed in that orphanage, I probably wouldn’t be alive today.”
Now, at age 20, Amanda Ann Teresa Mays is joining the rest of the world in mourning the death of the Nobel Prize-winning nun.
“I grew up believing Mother Teresa had a personal investment in my life,” said Mays, who was reared in the Bend area, moved to Portland with her boyfriend and is about to begin a job at a bank.
On her journey from India in March 1978, the little girl almost died of shigella, a severe form of dysentery.
She was nursed back to health in Hawaii for two months before traveling on to Oregon, first as the adopted child of Dennis and Diane Nason, then for the past four years as the adopted daughter of Bend residents Ken and Jacque Mays.
The Nasons, a Bend-area couple, adopted more than 80 children, many of them handicapped, over 20 years but were convicted in 1995 of forgery and racketeering.
Through all that, Mays said, “Mother Teresa was my guardian angel. Now, I believe she’s my guardian angel in heaven.”
Mays had been searching for her missing copy of the photo on the very day Mother Teresa died.
In the photo, a young armless girl smiles in the arms of Mother Teresa.
“Even if it’s not me in the picture, it’s still an amazing story,” said Mays, who at 80 pounds is just under 5 feet tall - about the same size as the diminutive nun.
Mother Teresa’s touch is still affecting her future.
“Eventually, I would love to open a shelter for disadvantaged children and teen moms, a transition place to get them back up on their feet,” she said.
“I was blessed. Not very many people can say a person like this took notice of them. I wouldn’t be alive, if not for that.”