It has taken me a week to even write this. Every time I start, I am at a complete loss for words. It is rare for anything to leave me entirely speechless.
A few years ago, we had to turn down multiple birthday party invitations for my oldest, Mecaden. They were pool parties. Yes, she can swim. Yes, she wanted to go. The only problem- all of her friends from school only know her as hearing. They know she was born deaf and has cochlear implants. They know when she takes them off she can’t hear anything. But they have never had to experience her without her “ears”. We go to the pool and to the beach every year- her external processors cannot get wet, so they go in a case to stay away from any water. She runs off to jump in, and often times other little girls want to befriend Mecaden. I have to go over and communicate to both of them, explaining that Mecaden can’t hear, and telling Mecaden what the little girl is saying (Mecaden used to be able to read anyone’s lips, now she really can only read mine). Sometimes its too confusing so the other children will go on and find someone else to play with. Other times (many times) the other children will try their hardest in attempting to play with Mecaden and make her feel included. The more children, the harder that is to achieve. They start squealing and splashing and hollering, “Let’s all see how far we can jump from the side!”… she can hang in that situation if I tell her what’s going on. Then someone pipes up, “Let’s play Marco Polo!!” Well, at that point she is done. She has to sit out. Not because she won’t attempt to play, it’s because other children simply don’t understand and don’t have the patience to work with her hearing loss. Truly, it is never out of unkindness that these children move on and play without her. They just don’t understand. But I cannot tell you how it kills me to see her trying to keep up, the kids swimming away after another new game, and leaving her bobbing in the water and slowly making her way to the side by herself. She just sits there and watches them, wishing.
For years this didn’t seem to bother her. Mostly, because we only went swimming with friends. Friends she has grown up with and they have always known about, accepted, and worked with her hearing loss. It’s not new or different to them. It’s normal. No one ever swam away from her. Since starting elementary school, it has started affecting her. After a few turned down invitations, she sighed and told me, “I just wish I could hear in the water. It’s not fair.” I decided to fight my own pain in hearing that, and mustered up all the chippiness I could, and forced a smile… “I know, Mecaden. But remember, when you get to Heaven, you will be able to hear without implants all the time!” Normally, that worked and encouraged her. This time, however, she burst into tears and said, “But I don’t wanna wait for Heaven to hear!” I cried, too, and just wrapped my arms around her and told her I was sorry. My heart shattered. My little girl can’t play Marco Polo like all these other children, like I did as a little girl. She can’t even tuck her hair behind her ears because of the processors that take up so much room, not to mention the arms of her glasses that have to fit back there somehow.
Sometimes the broken things threaten to destroy us in life. Sometimes it is hard to see the beautiful in the broken. Sometimes its hard to wait until Heaven.
When Mecaden recently got glasses, I decided to submit to insurance a request for new implant processors. These are just different external components, no surgery required. An all-in-one unit called Rondo. It would take all of the pieces that go on/around/behind her ears and be in one mostly-round unit that magnetizes right where her internal component is. It would mean she could wear her glasses much more comfortably. I didn’t think insurance would cover it… but I asked our friends, family, and Sunday School class to pray big prayers. God showed up in big ways.
The Rondos were approved in full (!!!) and I learned they would come with completely water proof covers. As in, MY GIRL CAN PLAY MARCO POLO THIS SUMMER. I cried on the phone with our audiologist. You would think, almost 9 years into this journey, you can get a hold of yourself and not cry anymore. So not true. I had to hang up and call back. We wrote a message for Mecaden to read when Todd got home from work. She opened it and read “Mecaden, you are getting new cochlear implant processors. That means this summer you will be able to hear while you swim.” Mecaden has this built-in gauge of excitement on her face. It’s her single dimple on her right cheek. The deeper it gets, the more excited she is. I have never seen her dimple that deep. Pure. Joy.
Last Monday, I took Mecaden to her cochlear implant/audiology clinic. In no time at all, her Rondos were mapped and ready to go. A little bit of sound booth testing, some tweaking, a little more testing and we were out the door. A couple hours later, we made a stop at the optical dispensary where she got her glasses. She needed the arms adjusted to fit her ears better since she no longer had any processors on them to hug them to her head. Mecaden hopped out of the car and I stopped her so I could take a picture. I told her to pull her hair back so I could see her new processors and suddenly it dawned on her. “Wait. You mean I can put my hair behind my ears?!” The rush of emotions I experienced was unexpected. I grinned and said, “YES, you can!!!!” And with that, I watched as my little girl tucked her hair behind her ear for the very first time, and a grin spread across her face. That deep dimple appeared again.
I am thankful for our daughter’s journey. If you asked me, I would tell you that of course I wish she could hear without implants. But she doesn’t and she won’t until Heaven. And God has taught me more about Him and given me more joy through brokenness than I feel I would have otherwise. Timothy Keller said that “God shakes our confidence in our earthly life so that we can yearn for our heavenly life, where our joy is truly unshakable and where our wailing will be turned into dancing.” That is one of the hardest things to be thankful for… broken things to remind me of the day when there will be no broken things. And while we wait, God blesses us richly with little tastes of what that day will be like. Things like waterproof cochlear implant covers and impending games of Marco Polo, and simple things like your daughter being able to tuck her hair behind her ears. I encourage you to look for the beauty amidst the broken. Sometimes its not as grandiose and obvious as the broken. But it is there. The tiniest reflections of the incredible goodness and kindness of God.
From my trench to yours,