Columbus Dispatch, The (OH)
November 22, 2008
She’s thankful to be hearing the world that eluded her
For The Columbus Dispatch
About 15 years ago, when my husband and I walked through the door of Gethsemane Lutheran Church, we knew that the move was right for us.
We had Baptist and Methodist backgrounds, so the switch was notable in our faith journey.
I, of course, joined the choir, in part because Ron Kenreich was the organist.
Ron directed the choir during my last year at Westerville High School (now Westerville South). When we met again at Gethsemane more than 20 years later, he still remembered me as Liz Day from his first year of teaching.
By 1996, though, I knew I had to quit the church choir: I could no longer hear myself or the singer next to me.
My inability to understand spoken words had begun during childhood, and I was wearing two aids. Bob, my husband, and I were glad to be sitting together at last during the service.
We’d kneel when prayers were spoken by a pastor, who would say after a few lines, “Lord, in your mercy.”
We’d reply in unison, “Hear our prayer.”
In time, my husband realized that I wasn’t saying the response, even though my head was lowered in prayer.
I couldn’t understand anything being said; I was saying my own prayers.
Sensing my needs, one Sunday after the pastor spoke his words, Bob pressed my hand gently. I looked at him, and he smiled.
I saw the touch as love and adoration spoken from God through Bob. Tears spilled down my cheeks.
From then on, when he pressed my hand, I spoke the response.
Bob started giving me a synopsis of the sermon, filling in the blanks of what I’d missed in the message.
Eventually, though, we knew that another change was needed.
The solution eluded us until, while driving on Morse Road one day, I saw a sign for Holy Cross Lutheran Church of the Deaf.
I summoned enough courage to drive into the parking lot on that sunny Saturday, then marched to the door with purpose and knocked. I knocked again. I peeked through the window and saw people inside.
Why weren’t they answering?
As quickly as I wondered, the idea hit me: They’re d eaf, Liz.
Just then, someone saw me and came to the door.
Bob and I worshipped there for the next year, learning and growing in our faith. My signing improved, too.
Still, although words were spoken and signed at Holy Cross, and my husband wasn’t the only hearing person in the congregation, he missed worshipping in a hearing church.
One Sunday, we returned to Gethsemane.
Seeing old friends felt good, but I understood nothing. By then, I was truly deaf, even with my hearing aids.
We faced the challenge together, deciding that our worship had to be more personal — at home — until we could find another solution. We knew that God understood.
In 2002, I became a candidate for a cochlear implant.
My only question: “How soon can I have the surgery?”
The operation proved successful: In a quiet setting, I could understand nearly 95 percent of a conversation — a vast improvement from zero percent in the implanted ear and 8 percent in the other.
I keep a healthy supply of batteries on hand for the voice processor; when the batteries die, I am deaf.
Bob and I have become members of Buckeye Christian Church in Grove City, where we can sit in the front row, back row or somewhere in between — and I understand the message.
With every bird song, every child’s voice or any other sound I missed for years, I am reminded of this blessing.
And I won’t forget the kindnesses that others showed when I couldn’t hear anything: a smile, an explanation in writing or a sign of love and caring in a simple touch.
Thanks for listening for me.
As Thanksgiving approaches, Liz Thompson, 57, of Grove City feels ever grateful for her special gift.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH Copyright (c) 2008 The Dispatch Printing Co.