The Teacher Who Doesn’t Speak

On August 21, 2012, things changed a lot for my family.

My grandma, 78 years old and as cheerful as ever, suffered a major stroke that left her paralyzed on her right side and unable to speak more than “yes” or “no” or a few random words in between.

Almost two months to the day, I sat at her bedside the other night, her lone visitor that day as other family who had been with her were away for the day.

I marveled at the path she has taken.
Since that August day, she went through a time where she was only responsive for snitches of time during the day, and could not swallow or eat or drink on her own.
There were times she needed the assistance of a full body lift to transfer between her bed and a Broda full body wheelchair.
There were times she needed the assistance of feeding tubes and catheters and oxygen and intravenous fluids and all kinds of medication to help her live.

Since then, she has impressed doctors, nurses, therapists, and family alike in her recovery.
She has been brave and courageous, facing life with a debilitating condition.

She now is able to stand with the help of one or two assistants, and is able to pivot and transfer and even walked the other day in physiotherapy with the help of a brace and a helping hand or two. She is able to eat her own meals, able to laugh and smile and respond to “yes or no” questions.

She has indeed come a long way.

As I sat there, visiting with her and enjoying the view from her hospital room, I remembered the times she and I would talk when I’d come home for holidays or weekends, or the times she would write to me through my college years, or the phone calls she would make to encourage me or “just to chat.”
She has always had something to teach me, whether it was about gardening or cooking or her past or her experiences or what I should do in situations I was unsure about or her unshakable love for the Lord.

This particular night was no different.

Before I left, I asked Grandma whether she would like me to read her some bible passages before she went to bed.
Her face lit up and she uttered a lightly accented “Ja”.
I took that as a yes.

I dug out my iPhone from my purse and made a little joke that she had probably never heard the bible from an iPhone.
She laughed, and I began.

I read Psalm 23, which she had quoted to me many times.
My eyes filled.

I read Psalm 63, which talks about praising God throughout life.
My throat closed.

I read Isaiah 41, with some of her favourite verses in it.
I blinked back tears.

I began to read Psalm 91, and looked up at her when I read the first few verses.

“Those who rest in the shadow of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
He is my God, and I trust Him.” (Psalm 91:1-2)

She was looking me right in the eye, nodding emphatically and making a gentle “mmhmm” of affirmation with every sentence.

A tear slid down my cheek.

I continued to read, but all I could think about was the woman in front of me and how inspired and encouraged I was by her.

She married a man over 55 years ago, packed up everything she had, left everything she had known, and moved across oceans with him to pursue his dreams, even though she didn’t know what they were headed for or the language they spoke there.
She raised seven children in a wooden house on a dairy farm, putting in many long hours of hard work clearing land, picking rocks and roots, milking cows, and preparing food for their growing family.
She poured all she had into others, and enjoyed what God had given her in the midst of all the hard work and trial.
Now, she has endured this stroke and it’s debilitating effects on her body and on her life.

And still, through everything, she has raised her hands in praise to the Lord.
She declares Him to be her strength, and trusts Him with everything.

I’m humbled, amazed, and inspired by her faith.
Oh, Grandma, know that you still teach me so much.

Even though we rarely hear her voice, her actions and her heart continue to speak volumes.

Grandma and I and some of her beloved flowers at my high school graduation in 2009.
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One thought on “The Teacher Who Doesn’t Speak

  1. Yep, that’s my mom. Thank you Jennie for this wonderful testimony to a beautiful woman. I’m so glad she’s still with us and we can celebrate her life while she’s still alive.

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