Eudora — Mary Abel says her positive outlook on life has gotten her through two family crises in the past year.
"Sometimes I think, `Why me?'" Mrs. Abel said Tuesday, sitting at a table in the front room of her home east of Eudora, on the Douglas-Johnson county line. "But then I think, sorrow and trouble comes to everyone, so why not me."
Mrs. Abel's son, Danny, 36, was seriously burned the morning of March 31 as he was trying to light a propane heating system at a greenhouse near his home near the intersection of Douglas County Road 442 and Evening Star Road.
Authorities speculate that the pilot light on the propane system had gone out during the night but propane that fed the light continued to flow, filling the greenhouse with the gas.
MRS. ABEL said her son smelled propane in his greenhouse and had tried to air out the structure by opening the door for about 20 minutes. But when he tried to light the heating system, the propane trapped in the greenhouse ignited and exploded, melting the plastic and singeing the wood on the building.
Someone since has told Mrs. Abel that propane is a heavy gas that needs more prompting to leave the greenhouse.
Danny Abel, a rural mail carrier for the Eudora Post Office, received second- and third-degree burns over the upper half of his body and still is listed in serious condition in the burn unit at Kansas University Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.
Doctors have grafted skin from the unburned, lower portion of his body to his hands and forearms. More skin grafts are scheduled to be performed later, Mrs. Abel said.
"He's in a lot of pain, but the doctors say he has handled it real well," she said. "He's pretty tough."
DANNY ABEL'S accident came just one year after the Abel family had faced another test of strength.
In March 1989, a survey crew found the skeletal remains of Paul Abel, Danny's younger brother, near Stull. He had been missing since June 24, 1988.
Paul Abel, 28, had been diagnosed as having mental problems in 1980 and was taking medication for his illness, Mrs. Abel said. But shortly before he disappeared, he stopped taking his medicine.
"The last time I saw him was June 24, 1988. I was in the kitchen washing dishes and he came downstairs and said, `Mom, I'm going to check on Dad (George Abel) in the field," Mrs. Abel said.
She did not see her son alive again.
THE KANSAS Highway Patrol found Paul Abel's 1974 yellow Mustang parked on the shoulder of Interstate 70 about five miles west of Gage Boulevard in Topeka and about 20 miles from where his body was found. Authorities, however, were unable to make the connection between the car and Abel, who had been reported missing to Johnson County officials June 25, the same day the car was found. The car sat for more than eight months in a Kansas Department of Transportation lot in Topeka before Douglas County officials connected it with Paul Abel's body shortly after he was found.
Mrs. Abel said that although her son was found dead, she was relieved that the uncertainty of his fate had ended.
AUTHORITIES are unsure why Abel abandoned his car or how he ended up in a field near Stull just west of Lawrence. But his mother thinks she knows what was going through her son's mind before he died.
"Personally, I think he ran out of gas and started to walk home," she said. "He knew where he was because when the road he was on turned south, he kept walking east through the field towards home. The medicine he had been taking make him drink a lot of water. I think he just collapsed.
"The odd thing is, he had more than $20 in his pocket and he had to have passed a filling station," she said.
Paul Abel was buried in the Eudora Cemetery on March 15.
ALTHOUGH Mrs. Abel said the events of the past year have been a trial for her family, she also said family members are dealing well with her younger son's death and her older son's accident. She attributes the family's ability to pull through the difficult times to its realistic attitude.
"You have to have a positive attitude in life," she said. "If you look for the bright side of things, you'll find it. If you look for the other side, you'll find it, too. But nobody needs to feel rained on. Things happen to all people."