“I’m sorry, could you say that again?”
“Whew, I still didn’t get it. Say it one more time.”
Such are the things one says when one has difficulty with one small word.
It’s easy to write…just four letters.
It’s easy to say…just part your lips and push a small breath from the back of your mouth.
However, for some – and, most especially, one person near and dear to me – the word is difficult to hear. Did you hear that…the last word in that last sentence? You did, right? That’s the word. H E A R, hear. But I can almost guarantee my Mom wouldn’t since that is the one word that gives her difficulty. Oh, she can say it and she can write it, but it’s what the word represents that troubles her. Don’t get me wrong. She pays attention. She listens. Frankly, she probably listens better than anyone else I’ve ever met. It’s just the very function of the word that bothers her. In fact, I’m sure sometimes, in the quietness of her heart, she has whispered to herself – and then to God – “To hear, to hear, if only I could hear like others hear.”
You see, my friend, early in life, back in the 1930’s, Mom had some terrible ear infections. Now I’m not sure whether treatment for such things simply was not available then or if her family’s poverty precluded treatment. I just know she received no treatment and the result was severe hearing loss. That’s when the curse started. It’s also when the blessing started. Let me explain.
The curse part is easy to explain. It’s represented by words like those that started this little essay.
“Huh?” “What?” “I can’t hear what you’re saying. Stand right in front of me and let me see your lips.”
Every conversation, at best, becomes part time for Mom. Some of it she hears. Some of it she does not. It’s frustrating.
The curse part is easy to explain. It’s represented by the winces on another face as Mom sings out loud. You see, when you cannot hear yourself or others very well, you certainly cannot tell whether or not you are singing on key or pitch or whatever it’s called. This is a dilemma for singing…but, oh how Mom loves to sing. That creates the problem. She loves to sing, she just can’t sing like an angel…nothing like an angel…nothing like…well like nothing you’ve ever heard…if you catch my meaning.
The curse is easy to explain.
The blessing is not so easy to explain, but it’s represented by some things small and some things out of this world.
The blessing of Mom’s almost total, but not quite total hearing loss has often been the source of some near miracles. I remember once, when I was about sixteen, she said to me, “Ricki, I want you to clean the bathroom.”
“Uhhh, you have to be kidding, Mom. I’m not gonna do it. The bathroom is your job?”
“That’s right,” she replied, “the bathroom.”
Notice how she did not respond to my disrespect. She simply responded to what she heard…two words…”the bathroom.” And, being the kind and gentle person she is, she must have presumed the best of me.
So, off to the bathroom I went. I gave it a quick brush down…and I mean quick. You would not have been able to see a difference from when I entered to when I left. A little while later I sat down in the family room. Mom called out to me from the kitchen, “Did you clean the bathroom?”
I called out loudly, “Yes, but you better believe I didn’t do much.” Of course, I dropped my volume on everything after the word yes. I probably did not need to, but I was taking no chances. It was my plan to not only do as little as possible, but to cover my tracks with “deceptive honesty.” You know, say what was true, but say it so as to get away with something…cover some tracks…lay the groundwork for some sleight of hand argument in the near future. Once the words were out I figured “Great, now on to something else.”
Then one of those small miracles I have come to appreciate occurred. My Mom, she who would have expected me to come to the kitchen to give my answer – so she could hear it all – said, “Ricki Lee!,” — oh, oh, use of both first and middle name, not good, not good at all — “get up, get in there, clean it, clean it good, and don’t sass me again.”
Now how did she pull that off?
I think it was God. In small moments, laden with large implications, God would alter the sound waves. It had to be.
That’s it, you see, the blessing is a bit more difficult to explain. Perhaps, when you suffer from severe hearing loss, you learn to listen with your heart…and God comes through. When you do not hear much of what is being said around you, you begin to hear what is being said in you…to you…deep within you…in your heart. In fact, my brother, two sisters, and I have often joked, “She must have an inside line to God.” But it’s more than a joke. It’s truth. The word “hear” for Mom is special when considered this way. This is when she really hears. This is when she gets it all.
She really gets it. She really understands what Jesus meant when he said,
“Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the [Holy] Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”
Or, “Look! Here I stand at the door and knock, If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.”
And, oh how thrilled I am that she does.
The blessing may be a bit more difficult to explain, but it’s something I cannot, will not, imagine having lived without. The blessing is not only hers, but mine as well, and just as well for thousands of others.
Her physical hearing loss drove her to spiritual hearing…
which drove her to spiritual obedience…
which led her to be more and more like her Savior with each new day…
which enabled her to bless everyone she knew…
me not the least.
Because she listened with spiritual ears she heard the tender voice of the Savior offering salvation. And once she heard it, she received it.
Because she listened, I too heard…the sweet call of the Savior’s life-changing message,
“Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in me. For in my Father’s house are many mansions. I go there to prepare a place for you. If this was not the case, I would tell you plainly. Now, when everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will be with me in heaven. I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, but through me.”
Heaven, my friend, is mine…and yours too if, like my Mom, you listen and hear with your heart.
And then, then the day will come, when standing before the very throne of God himself, we will lift our voices. We will lift praises to God our Savior. Perhaps, like the angels, we will be overcome by his majesty. The words will have to come out. The melody will have to be released. We will not be able to contain ourselves. We will cry out, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.” We will sing. We will sing…
and I will hear a voice…
a very beautiful voice…
a voice I have known since birth…both births…
a voice with perfect, no not perfect, heavenly…heavenly pitch…
a voice that will ring out above all others…
a voice light-hearted with eternity, somber with gratefulness…
a voice unchained from physical disability…
a voice with spiritual depth…
a voice once hampered, now set free…
a voice that will remind me of days on earth…
my mother’s voice…
and I will remember…
I will remember her saying, “Just wait ‘til I get to heaven. You won’t mind my singing then!”