Heart songs recovered via new keyboard

Heart songs recovered via new keyboard

By LIZ THOMPSON

October 8, 2018

This Week Community News

It was a birthday surprise. But more than that, it was a chance to try again.

Would my fingers and eyes coordinate after nearly 20 years absent from any kind of piano keyboard?

After my husband finished the task of putting the stand together, he firmly placed the full-sized keyboard on top and fastened it in place. We moved it close to the wall, and I placed the old hymnal on the music holder.

The inscription in the front of the Methodist hymnal read: “To Elizabeth Ann, from Mother and Dad, Christmas 1968.”

I was a senior in high school and had been in school and church choirs since first grade. Even though I gave most of my sheet music to my grandchildren, I had kept this gift.

You might ask why I write about music so often. Music was a comfort and a major part of my identity through my first 40-plus years — singing, playing guitar and piano, and writing music. It was my second language — one I learned from my mother and grandmother and various teachers and directors through these same years.

It was my main choice for praising God and sharing my faith. Those same songs wrapped me in warmth and safety when my life became turbulent.

I know I took this gift for granted and never expected the day would come when music was completely silenced. Even as my hearing faded, music remained a part of me.

When my deafness arrived, the music played on in my mind and heart. A new comfort: ” … I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.” (1 Corinthians 14:15)

Earlier last summer, on a trek with my daughter to exchange her harp for a larger one, I stepped into a piano store. I felt surrounded by old friends made new and shiny. A young woman was playing one of the pianos, and I listened.

Over time, my perception of music with my cochlear implants has improved. I have determined to simply enjoy whatever I could. Instrumentals especially sound good.

The woman stopped playing, and my daughter was making her purchase. I took one of her harp-music sheets and played it on one of the beautiful baby-grand pianos. It was a melody with single notes, no chords.

The piano keys felt good to my skin, and I remembered what notes to play. It transported me to the old upright I learned to play on.

Before we left the store, I asked for advice on keyboard purchases. I was hoping to touch one to see if it felt like a piano.

The next room, which we’d missed somehow, housed several keyboards. Never had I set piano music to memory, so I played a scale. It felt very close to the piano I had played moments before.

“Someday,” I mused.

Days later, I searched the Sweetwater website, from which we had purchased drum accessories for our youngest grandson.

There was “my” keyboard. The price was lower than the Columbus store, so I sent the link to my husband stating it was the keyboard I had told him about.

I didn’t know he saved the link. Nor did I know that, months later, he would order it for me after talking with our daughter.

Throughout the summer, I brought up the idea of purchasing the keyboard to Bob, and he said I should order it. I hesitated time and again. Would I remember how to play chords and more than a single line of notes with one hand? Was it like riding a bicycle?

More than that, would I play? My singing voice is all but gone, and I used to play more as an accompaniment for my voice.

So when I placed my hands on the new keyboard, my fingers worked to remember their old friends. My eye-hand coordination was tested.

I just didn’t expect the tears of joy when I realized I still could do this.

It is a gift I will never take lightly as I play my favorite hymns and show tunes and hum along.

 

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Worship in Silence

This was originally posted on Jebaire Publishing’s website. Unfortunately, due to hard economic times, they will be closing their doors in 2013. They have served me beautifully as a writer and author. They published my second book God Whispers: Nudges, Fudges and Butterfly Moments in 2012.

Worship in Silence

By

LizThompson

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Going to church was part of growing up for me. The sound of our church bell roused me from sleep on Sundays, sending out a reminder to come worship. I didn’t even think about not going to church—it was an integral part of my life, and I loved everything about it. From walking in the doors, seeing familiar faces, listening to the music and singing in choirs since my youth, to listening to sermons—even when I could not understand everything said—and returning later for youth group meetings or other events at our church.

Music was a huge part of my worship. Singing was as natural as breathing for me. Walking two by two into church in our choir robes and holding our music high, we would sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy” marking the time with each step. The words of the hymns soaked into my heart and soul comforting and teaching me.

Looking back, the ritual of worship and familiarity was something I sought out when I was an adult and on my own. There were times I moved far from God. I’m not proud of those times, but I know I learned from them. Those were lonely times thinking I could do things on my own without seeking God for answers; without looking for a place to worship with others and not listening to God’s direction.

But today I know God never moved. He was right there waiting for me to wake up and listen to His voice.

Listening was a problem for me physically since at least fourth grade when I was told what I already sensed:  I had significant hearing loss. The 50′s were not a time when technology would have helped me very much but acknowledgment from my family would have helped. Yet, I became stronger and learned to read lips and body language as my hearing worsened. By 29 I needed hearing aids but waited 10 years before taking action on this knowledge. The doctor told me my ears were 80 years old. When I asked what they would be like when I was 80, he said, “Learn sign language.”

With my first hearing aid, the world opened up for me, and I was better able to live in the hearing world. Then a few years later, a second hearing aid helped even more. About this same time, God inspired me with lyrics and music, and I performed them with my guitar. After six years of this inspiration, it stopped as suddenly as it started. That’s when I started taking American Sign Language (ASL) classes. If nothing else, I would sign the music.

Soon I realized I could no longer hear my own voice when I sang, especially in choir. So I relented and sat in the pew with my husband. Soon after, I was deaf with only about eight percent of my hearing remaining.

How would I worship without music? Without hearing? All my life, worship involved voice and now mine was silent. My life was silent with only snippets of sound.

God reached me in my silence. He spoke in a silent language of my heart. He taught me to listen in new ways and gave me courage to move on in the hearing world.

In the late 90′s, attending church meant my husband repeated the sermon highlights when we went home and the bulletins were how I obtained church news. People were kind, knowing I couldn’t take part in conversations and hugs were plentiful. I was part of a team that sought FM Listening Systems for the hard of hearing in our church. That helped me for a time but then, no longer. Life was silent and I sat in the pew praying while others sang and spoke.

One Saturday, I drove past a church I’d seen often and my car seemed to steer into the parking lot. I took a deep breath and walked to the door and knocked. No answer. I knocked again, knowing there were people in the church. Nothing. I peeked in the window and saw people and knocked a third time and someone saw me and opened the door. I was so nervous and embarrassed. Why? It was a church for the Deaf and I had been knocking!

Using my rough ASL, I asked a few questions about services and told them my husband was hearing. “How will he know what is happening?” I asked. The pastor spoke and signed back to me, “We speak and sign and have many hearing in services.”

We attended for a year, I grew and learned that worship wasn’t all about talking and music; it was about praising God and letting his love shine into the world.

God continued to reach me in silence, but in 2002, I had my first cochlear implant restoring 95 percent of my hearing. Thank God! Sound was back in my life, but I am still deaf when the batteries die. Music didn’t return with the implant, but I have a new appreciation for sounds of nature which is truly music to my ears.

Our loving God knows all our lives. He knew I would become deaf and need to learn the music of my heart—His heart. Over the years, my love of writing was developed through poetry, music, essays and various writing venues. Now I know why. One doesn’t have to hear in the true sense to write. But since I hear God in my heart, mind and soul, His messages come through loud and clear. And I write.