Monday, November 8, 2010

A Lesson From Heather

I taught Young Women's yesterday, and shared the following story.  It is quite long, but it is one of my absolute favorites, and has weighed heavily on my mind lately. 
“It has been several years and I am still deeply touched how in one fleeting moment, with great power, the Spirit was manifest to me through two bright blue eyes. The eyes belong to Heather; a nine year old girl with a keen mind, infectious giggle, and a determined spirit housed in a very physically restricted frame. Due to the nature of her handicaps, the simplest of life’s activities, if at all possible, are a major task. Unable to verbalize, Heather sends messages, quite efficiently, with her eyes; a direct gaze indicating “yes” and a blink meaning “no”. So through a series of questions, gazes, blinks, giggles, facial expressions, more questions and more gazes and blinks, Heather has shared her vibrant spirit and brought incredible amounts of joy into the lives of those who know her and take the time to interact with her.
As Heather’s therapist and teacher, I have sensed on many occasions that for Heather, as with other handicapped children, the veil seems to be very thin. How often I have wondered what she could teach me about the things of the Spirit if only the expression were granted.
Heather is proud of her membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is a great little missionary in her own right as she struggles to share with others that which is of most value to her.
Summer school is a fun time for special students and teachers alike. The atmosphere is relaxed and the days are short. Its purpose is to maintain basic living skills during the long break between school years.
Monday morning, as usual, Heather arrived at school with a countenance as bright as the sun in the sky. As she was wheeled off the bus, we visited about the previous weekend. When we arrived at the classroom, Heather indicated to me that she had attended Primary so I began singing some of the Primary songs, looking for an indication of familiarity on Heather’s face. A smile broke across her face in immediate recognition. Between songs I talked to Heather briefly and she responded in her usual manner. I asked Heather if I could sing my favorite Primary song “I Wonder When He Comes Again”. She responded positively and so I proceeded. At the conclusion of that song I asked Heather if she had a favorite song. Immediately her eyes focused on mine but then I faced the challenge of determining which song she loved above all others and to satisfy my own curiosity - why? Through a series of questions I discovered that it was a song she had heard in Primary. She wasn’t sure which song book it was in and most importantly, it was a song about Jesus. As I went through every possible song I could think of, to my dismay and Heather’s disappointment, none of them was the right one. I didn’t understand and concluded that Heather was confused. I had spent eight years collectively as Junior Primary Chorister and felt certain that I had not forgotten any of the songs about Jesus. But Heather refused to let the issue die. It was as if she needed for some reason for the two of us to share her favorite song. Finally I agreed that I would bring my Primary song books to school the following day and promised her that we would go through them together.
Tuesday morning Heather arrived and was wheeled into the classroom. Visually she was on the prowl for the song books. As her eyes fixed on the books across the room, she gave me a squeal and a look to let me know in no uncertain terms that she wanted to find the song—now! So we took a minute and went through the books but to no avail. She liked all of the songs but none of them were THE song.
Wednesday dawned a beautiful day. It was as if the day were created to reflect the beauty of what lay in store. Heather came to school more determined than ever that we find her song. Tucked in Heather’s wheelchair was the new hymn book. I took Heather out of her wheelchair and situated her comfortably on her stomach in a beanbag. I positioned myself on the floor at her side. Page by page we made our way through the hymn book. With each page I sang the first phrase of the song and with each page Heather’s eyes closed in a definite no. We were more than halfway through the book and I’m afraid I began to doubt the possibility of any success in the adventure but I continued. As a matter of routine I turned to the next page and began:
“There is sunshine in my soul today...”
It was as if someone had stuck her with a pin. Heather jumped and smiled; her bright eyes looking directly my way. Together we laughed and reveled in the moment of completing a three-day search. With the search ended it was time to get back to business…. Once she was situated in her chair with her head resting comfortably on my arm I said, “OK, now we can finally sing your favorite song.” With a smile on her face she listened as I began:
“There is sunshine in my soul today
More glorious and bright
Than glows in any earthly sky
For Jesus is my light...”
As I began the chorus Heather mustered all the effort she could and joined in with occasional sounds only slightly more audible than a sigh but booming with spirit to sing with me...
“Oh there’s sunshine,
Blessed sunshine
Where the peaceful, happy moments roll.
When Jesus shows His smiling face
There is sunshine in my soul.”
As I sang the words to the last line she looked at me steadily, as if to say, “I like that part.” I felt so grateful that we had found the song. Heather was so happy that it was worth the effort and then some. Little did I realize that the real message was yet to be discovered. I asked if she wanted the rest of the verses. She, of course, responded with a firm, “Yes”. I expressed my insecurity about remembering all the words since we had left the hymn book in the classroom, but decided to give it a shot anyway, so I continued:
“There is music in my soul today;
A carol to my king
And Jesus, listening can hear
The songs I cannot sing...”
“And Jesus, listening can hear the songs I cannot sing.” Heather seemed to really come to life at that line in the song. Her reaction was so strong that I stopped. I looked at her as the reality and significance of the moment pressed on my mind. I queried, “Heather, is that it? Is that what you like about the song? Is it what you want me to know? That Jesus is listening and He can near the songs you cannot sing:” She lifted her head and looked me straight in the eyes with excitement and yet almost relief evident on her face. The testimony had been borne.
I felt a great reverence at what was taking place. Feeling guided by the Spirit myself I ventured on to ask, “Heather, does Jesus talk to you in your mind and in your heart?” Immediately her little head again came up and her look was penetrating.
Knowing her close relationship with the Savior and feeling surely an answer awaited, there was one more thing I wanted to know. So 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 in fact share with me her insight. I feel 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 simply radiant as she confirmed that statement. I paused, swallowed and continued, “Does He say, ‘Heather, you’re special’?” With a new found energy source her arms began to wave with excitement and her eyes were as big as quarters as she looked into my face. I paused again with a lump in my throat and then followed with, “Does He say, ‘Heather, be patient, I have great things in store for you’?”
What I next witnessed, I will never forget. Heather’s head became erect, every fiber of her being seemed to be electrified as her eyes penetrated my own soul. She knew she was loved. She knew she was special. She knew she needed only be patient for great things are in store.
The moment was too sacred for further words. I leaned forward and pressed her cheek against my own. Without any words, but with bright blue eyes as windows to a valiant soul, the truth was made known.
Yes, Heather, Jesus, listening, can hear.”
(from When Life Doesn’t Seem Fair by Bruce and Joyce Erickson)
What more could you possibly add to a testimony like that?  What a sweet reminder that our Savior knows our hearts.  He loves us and I am so grateful that I never have to face hard times alone. 

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