I think I will never forget the time the Spirit was shown me through the bright blue eyes of a nine-year-old, handicapped girl.
Heather is an intelligent child with a happy giggle, and a determined spirit housed in a body severely restricted because of physical handicaps. The simplest of activities are very difficult for her.
Because she cannot speak, Heather sends messages with her eyes. A direct gaze means yes, and a blink of her eyelids means no. Through a series of questions, gazes, blinks, giggles, and facial expressions, Heather shares her enthusiastic spirit and brings joy to the lives of everyone around her.
As her therapist and teacher for several years, I have sensed many times that for Heather, the veil between heaven and earth seems very thin. This is often true of handicapped children. If Heather could speak, what could she teach me about the things of the Spirit?
One Monday morning, Heather and I visited about the previous weekend. Heather indicated to me that she had attended Primary, so I began singing some Primary songs. A smile broke across her face whenever she recognized a song. I sang her my favorite, “I Wonder When He Comes Again.” Then I asked her if she had a favorite song. Immediately her eyes focused on mine and I was suddenly faced with the challenge of trying to find out which song she loved above all others.
Through a series of questions I discovered that her favorite song was one she had heard in Primary. She wasn’t sure which songbook it was in, but she knew it was about Jesus. I went through every possible song I could think of. To my dismay and Heather’s disappointment, I could not find the right one.
Heather refused to let me give up the search. For some reason she needed to share her favorite song with me. Finally, I agreed to bring my Primary songbooks to school the following day and go through them with her.
On Tuesday morning, Heather let me know that she was determined to find the song—now! We went through the books, but we couldn’t find it. She liked all of the songs, but none of them was the song. In desperation, I told Heather that if her mother could find the song we were looking for, we would sing it. If not, we would have to live with the fact that we couldn’t find it.
The next day, Heather was more determined than ever to find her song. Tucked in her wheelchair was a Church hymnbook. I sat next to her and, page by page, we read through the book. I sang the first phrase of each song, and each time Heather’s eyes closed in a definite no. Halfway through the book, I began to sing: “There is sunshine in my soul today, …”
As if someone had stuck her with a pin, Heather jumped and smiled. Her bright eyes looked directly at me. Together we laughed, feeling thrilled at the completion of our three-day search. “OK, now we can finally sing your favorite song,” I said. She smiled as I sang the first verse, and as I began the chorus she mustered all the effort she could and joined in with occasional sigh-like sounds. As I finished the chorus she looked at me steadily as if to say, “I liked that part.” I was so grateful I had found the song! I asked if she wanted to hear the rest of the verses and she responded with a firm yes. Again I began:
“There’s music in my soul today,
A carol to my King,
And Jesus listening can hear
The songs I cannot sing. …”
(Hymns, number 174.)
Heather’s reaction to those words was so strong that I stopped. I looked at her as I realized the reality and significance of the moment. “Heather, is that what you like about the song?” I asked. “Is that what you want me to know? That Jesus is listening, and he can hear the songs you cannot sing?” She lifted her head and looked me straight in the eyes. The testimony had been borne.
Feeling guided by the Spirit, I asked, “Heather, does Jesus talk to you in your mind and in your heart?” Her look was penetrating.
Knowing her close relationship with the Spirit, there was one more thing I wanted to know. With reverent anticipation I whispered, “Heather, what does he say?” My heart pounded as I viewed the clear look in her eyes as she awaited my questions so she could share her insight. I felt that the Lord gave me the right questions to ask as I took a deep breath and proceeded. “Does he say ‘Heather, I love you’?” Her eyes were radiant as she confirmed that statement. I paused, swallowed, and continued. “Does he say ‘Heather, you’re special’?” Again, yes. I paused again, with a lump in my throat, and then asked, “Does he say, ‘Heather, be patient; I have great things in store for you’?”
Heather’s head became erect; every fiber of her being seemed to be electrified as her eyes penetrated my soul. She knew she was loved. She knew she was special. She knew she only needed to be patient because great things were in store for her.
The moment seemed too sacred for further words. I leaned forward and pressed her cheek against my own. Without words, but through the bright blue windows to her soul, the truth had been made known.
Yes, Heather, Jesus, listening, can hear.