Amy sat turning the pages of Aunt Callie’s picture book, stopping from time to time to study the captions under the pictures. Aunt Callie sat close, fingers busy with the sleeve of a cardigan.
“What’s this word, Aunt Callie?” Her fingers asked the question.
Aunt Callie leaned over to follow the pointing finger. She lifted the child’s hand to her throat.
“Blessed, Amy. The word is blessed.” She repeated the word slowly, stressing the syllables.
Amy nodded, slowly tasting the word with her tongue. Aunt Callie flicked through a box of cards, selecting one with the photograph of another girl and her name printed underneath. She replaced Amy’s hand on her throat.
“See Bessie, Amy?”
When Amy nodded again, Aunt Callie placed the card over the picture, pointing to the similarities in the name and the word of the caption. She repeated the word. This time Amy nodded, smiling.
“What does ‘blessed’ mean, Aunt Callie?” Amy considered the picture. “Is it the same as touched?”
The picture depicted Jesus looking down at a small child. His hand was on the child’s head and the caption read “Jesus blessed the children.”
Aunt Callie shook her head. With all the wealth that blessing infers she was at a loss to explain the meaning to a profoundly deaf child who was learning to speak with her fingers and to read. It occurred to her that for Amy ‘touch’ might be the very word that would help her to understand. She turned the pages of the book to another picture – the picture of Jesus with his fingers in a deaf man’s ears. Pointing to the word ‘Ephphatha’ and then to the picture of Bessie and placing her finger on the ear showing in the photograph, she reminded Amy of the day Bessie was healed of her deafness. Amy responded excitedly. She ran across to the piano and brushed her fingers over the keys. Aunt Callie followed.
“Yes, Amy, but more!”
She hugged the girl and drew a large circle with her hands. Amy withdrew her fingers from the keys. They returned to the picture book. Carefully Aunt Callie selected first one picture then another, taking Amy through the feeding of the five thousand, raising Lazarus from the dead, the woman who touched Jesus’ cloak and was healed, the storm on the sea, retelling briefly the familiar stories, repeating the word ‘blessed’ as she did so. Amy’s eyes grew round, her questioning stilled as she followed Aunt Callie’s fingers, absorbing the stories of the pictures in silence, feeling the words in Aunt Callie’s throat, the shape of her mouth, the love in her eyes.
Finally Aunt Callie led her back to the piano, placed Amy’s hands on the keys, and standing behind Amy with her own hands resting lightly on Amy’s shoulders, said, “Play!”
Tentatively Amy’s fingers tried the notes. She leaned back. Aunt Callie moved forward. Amy gained confidence. Aunt Callie’s hands moved to lightly cup Amy’s ears. Amy smiled. Her fingers danced.
They were still at the piano when Amy’s father came in. Now Aunt Callie was seated alongside the girl, her arm around Amy’s waist. His eyebrows asked a question of Aunt Callie. She took him across to the book on the table, explaining Amy’s question and how she had tried to answer. Amy joined them.
Her father pointed to the word in the caption, his fingers asking Amy to explain the word to him. She laced her fingers in his, pulling him down to sit in the chair. Wriggling onto his knees, her busy fingers lightly touched his face and rested on his head before she hugged him tightly. Once more standing beside him she signed again, this time haltingly. There were tears in her eyes. Aunt Callie watched intently.
“Doug,” she said suddenly, “she is telling you that to be blessed is to be touched by love. That is what Jesus did so Bessie can hear.”
Doug’s eyes filled. He turned to Aunt Callie.
“But what about Amy? She still can’t hear, can she?”
Amy looked from one to the other. She shook her head and ran back to the keyboard and strumming the keys looked back at them. Aunt Callie laughed in understanding.
“Look, Doug. Amy is showing you she too is blessed. She can hear Jesus! She too is touched by love. And she wants to share that love with you.”
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