Many testimonies have been given to my family. Melissa, being deaf, has a story all her own. The first pages of my testimony tell of her beginning days, the hospital episode and the light given that I was being prepared for the work that was to come into my home. It has been twenty years of walking with my Master, of His guidance, teaching and His protection.
The faith Christ built in me paid off when Melissa was born. Had this not been present, she would have died. Her life was in danger more than once. After the meningitis episode, her eyesight came back. Then when she was about eight months old, she had a bad cold, and her father was holding some liquid wintergreen under her nose to help open her up so she could breathe more easily. Her hand came up and hit the bottle spilling some of it down her throat. She became paralyzed immediately; she couldnt breathe. Gene yelled for me and I prayed, Lord, what do we do? I heard an instant reply, You will have to breathe for her or she will die. It was one of those freak accidents. Liquid wintergreen burns like fire. Her father saved her life with mouth to mouth resuscitation. God had blessed us again in revealing what to do to spare her life.
It was about this time that we noticed she continually reached for the back of her neck. We took her to a chiropractor. He said her atlas was off her spine about the width of an adults little finger. The only cause of this problem, that we could figure out, was that it must have been a result of not being able to hold her head up when we brought her home from the hospital. Her neck had been like rubber, and when I sat her up, I had to prop her head up. When her neck regained strength, it caused her irritation, and she reached for it continually.
The chiropractor said to be prepared for convulsions when he adjusted her neck, for the shock would be very great to her system. I held my breath and prayed. She came through it fineno convulsions, and never again grabbed at the back of her neck.
One time when she was administered to at about the age of four, she was told that her Heavenly Father had watched over her continually and that her testimony would go to thousands. We know He watched over her. Too many things happened to her that took her to the brink of death for her to have made it without Him.
Faith Held My Heart
In 1963, we took four-year-old Melissa to K.U. Medical Center to find out the extent of her damage from the Spinal Meningitis. We had to know how deaf she was. She kept us confused by her reactions to vibrations and her response to sound, we thought, but which were only coincidences. One day as she sat on an elders lap he asked her Melissa, do you want Jesus to heal you? She smiled up at him and shook her head, Yes. Somehow she must have understood what he said, but it baffled us all the more.
We took her to K.U. and learned the cold hard truth. Keep your money, youre going to need it, Dr. Proud said when we asked how much the consultation cost. Several young male interns stood beside the examining table as little four-year-old Melissa patiently let them peer at her eyes, ears, and forehead, poking and staring at her. Auditory nerves destroyed by the high fever, he said. See her forelocks...no white hair which would indicate hereditary deafness...no evidence of it. Turning to Gene and me he asked, Any other deafness in the family? My aunt, Gene replied. She was born with hearing but fell when she was about two years old. The doctors said it was a pinched nerve. She has three hearing children.
After about a twenty-minute examination and auditory testing to determine the depth of her loss, the results were given usstone deaf! What does that mean? I asked. Well, the nearest we can explain it is, if Melissa stood four feet from a jet engine, she would be aware of sound; any further back, she would hear nothing.
Very humbly, Dr. Proud said, I am not God. There is nothing I can do to help her. If her eyesight came back in two months and her hearing didnt, then it will never come back by natural healing. There is no hearing aid or operation that will ever do her any good. As I heard these words, I never doubted that some day she would hear. God had promised through His elders that she would be made whole when the meningitis first attacked her. And I believed it. That faith kept my heart from breaking when I heard the doctors words.
Send Her Away Alone? Never!
Thats what they did with the deaf and blindsend them away to schools when they were still babies. Never mind how the parents or the babies felt about being separated. The handicapped now became the property of the state. The pressure was on, she had to be sent to deaf training and she was only four. The nearest school was in Kansas City. We lived in Independence, and were told that she needed to start there, and I wouldnt be allowed to go with her. Shy four-year-old Melissa was expected to be put on a bus for 15 miles to Kansas City, and her mother couldnt be with her. I flatly refused to have any part of it. God had to have a better way. But before that other way showed up, it nearly split Gene and me.
Ive watched the animal kingdom with its protective mother bears and bobcatsfighting even with the daddy or any danger to their cubs, and I understand. I fought back. Gene didnt have the answer, he just wanted her educated. I dont fault him for that, but sending her on that bus and into the school alone would have terrified her. It wasnt Gods way. Finally in Gods mercy, the light dawneda private tutor!
Melissa's Education Begins
We searched for the best private tutor we could find to start Melissas education at age four. And we found it in the well-qualified, former dean of Missouris School for the Deaf, Mrs. Skinner. She had raised a set of deaf twin sons who became brilliant engineers after graduating from college. We were sure she could help Melissa start her education.
The first day in her home, Melissas father and I watched as Melissa was set down in front of a coffee table full of objects. Mrs. Skinner picked up a ball and with very slow pronunciation, mouthed the word B-A-L-L. A smile came on Melissas little face as if to say, Yes, I see it. I will take it and play with it if thats what you want me to do. She reached for it but Mrs. Skinner pulled it back from her. Melissa looked a little hurt and embarrassed. Again Mrs. Skinner held the ball in front of Melissa and mouthed the word B-A-L-L. Melissa smiled shyly but this time she didnt reach for it. We could almost hear the little gears working in her head trying to figure out what that woman was doing.
Mrs. Skinner tried again without much success. She would mouth the word B-A-L-L; Melissa would shake her head yes, and smile. Finally Melissa made a sound BA. Mrs. Skinner made such ado about it that Melissa felt she had won the battle, especially when Mrs. Skinner gave her the ball. Next Mrs. Skinner picked up a pipe and went through the same ritual. Melissa tried her BA sound again, but this time it didnt work. When she didnt get the pipe, shed had enough of this nonsense and let us know she wanted to go home. Mrs. Skinner told Gene and me, She isnt understanding. Something is wrong.
Week after week it was the same thingeverything was a BA to Melissa. We wondered if she had brain damage from the meningitis also. Mrs. Skinner finally gave up. Its no use, she said, "she doesnt comprehend that things have names. Evidently her damage was more extensive than we thought.
One thing that troubled me was Melissas eyes. They were dull. They didnt have the sparkle of an inquisitive and developing mind such as I had seen in the vision of her two years before. I was heart sick. Where were we to go from hereto a school for the mentally handicapped? No, never! God will keep His promise. She will be whole in body and mind. I thought. I will trust Him.
One night a few months later I dreamed a curious dream. I saw Melissas brain with a thin membrane surrounding it. Nothing could penetrate through. I heard the Spirit say, Call Mine elders and ask them to pray for Melissa to receive comprehension of words. As this was being spoken, I saw the membrane separated or torn away from her brain. The dream was clear, distinct and short. I knew I had received instruction from heaven.
Upon awakening, I pondered what I had seen and obeyed when the Spirit directed me to call elders Bill Oliver and Lester Dyke. That morning they were anointing her with oil. Everyone witnessed the power present in that room as the elders prayed the exact words commanded by heaven. Then we left the matter in Gods hands and waited.
A few weeks later, Melissa came up to me and tugged at my dress to get my attention, Uh, uh, she grunted and pointed at a chair. Somehow I sensed what she wanted. I grabbed a pencil and printed C-H-A-I-R. Little four-year-old Melissa looked at the paper, studied it a moment then pointed to one of her favorite pastimesthe TV. T-E-L-E-V-I-S-O-N, I printed and handed it back to her. She looked at the two names, first one then the other, and I held my breath! Suddenly as if a light came on, she looked at me, smiled and (Ill never forget it) she pointed to her head as if to say, Now I know what that lady was doing. These things have names! And I cried, the same as Helen Kellers mother did in the movie when Helen began to understand. My little deaf sparrow was starting to fly. I wish I could put on paper the feelings of gratitude I had at that moment toward my Lord, but only those who have known such times can understand. God showed me what was wrong and what to do about it. I obeyed, and He corrected it. He cares!
Deaf and Blind Helen Keller
Her marvelous awakening
Excerpt from the story of Helen Keller
Chapter 3 W-A-T-E-R:
"The next weeks were an adventure for Helen. She liked the sewing cards and the kindergarten beads that Annie gave her. She liked their long g walks through the cool woods. They rode horseback together. Annie led Helen's pony.
Whatever they did Annie spelled letters in to Helen's hand. When they petted the cat Annie spelled C-A-T.
Helen quickly learned to imitate Annie's fingers. She could make the letters for C-A-K-E when she wanted a treat, and M-I-L-K when she was thirsty. 'Helen is like a clever little monkey,' Annie wrote. 'She has learned the signs to ask for what she wants but she had no idea that she is spelling words.'
Helen enjoyed the adventures with Annie. But she did not know that the stranger was her teacher. She was very unhappy when Annie tried to make her obey. Annie did not believe that Helen's parents were right to let Helen always do exactly as she pleased. At mealtimes Helen walked around the table. She dipped her fingers into everyone's plates and gobbled whatever she wanted. Annie made Helen sit in her own chair and eat from her own plate. Helen was furious. When Anne gave her a spoon, Helen threw it on the floor and kicked the table. They spent a whole afternoon fighting while Annie insisted that Helen fold her napkin. Mrs. Keller was upset. 'We must make Helen know we love her,' she said. 'But we must not let her think she is different because she is blind and deaf. She must behave like other children.'
Helen's bad tempers went on. Once she locked Annie in her room and hid the key. Captain Keller had to put a ladder up to Annie's window and help her down. One morning during her lesson Helen was especially bad. She slammed her new doll on the floor and broke it. Annie was too tired to go on with the lesson. Her eyes ached. She took Helen by the hand and led her outdoors. They stopped at the pump for a drink. Then something happened that changed Helen's whole life.
Helen held her hand under the spout while Annie pumped. As cold water poured over Helen's hand, Annie spelled in her other hand W-A-T-E-R. A new expression came into Helen's face. She spelled water several times herself. Then she pointed to the ground. Annie quickly spelled G-R-O-U-N-D. Helen jumped up. She suddenly realized that she was understanding words. She pointed to Annie, and Annie spelled T-E-A-C-H-E-R. Helen never called Annie by any other name.
Then Helen pointed to herself and Annie slowly spelled out H-E-L-E-N--K-E-L-L-E-R. Helen's face broke into a wide smile. It was the first time she knew that she had a name. Helen and Annie were both excited. They raced to the house to find Mrs. Keller. Helen threw herself in her mother's arms while Annie spelled M-O-T-H-E-R into her hand. When Helen nodded to show that she understood there were tears of happiness in Mrs. Keller's eyes.
All the rest of the day Helen ran about touching things and Annie spelled the names. When she touched her little sister, Annie spelled B-A-B-Y. At supper Annie rubbed her fingers. 'No wonder my hand is numb from spelling,' she said, smiling at Captain Keller. 'Helen is trying to make up in one day what other children have taken six years to learn.'
When Helen went to bed that night she kissed her teacher for the first time. Annie wrote,' I thought my heart would burst with joy.' Helen herself said many years later, 'I was born again that day. I had been a little ghost in an a no-world. Now I knew my name. I was a person. I could understand people and make them understand me.' "
Helen Keller, pp. 23-30 by Stewart and Polly Anne Graff, Yearling Book, Dell Pub. Co.. Inc. NY 007-0011