Reading Between The Lines
by Linda Barrick
Reading was still almost impossible. Jen couldn’t even look down at a book without getting dizzy. One day in the early spring the doorbell rang. I limped slowly to the door to answer it, and there on the porch, unannounced and unexpected, stood my dear childhood friend Missy Davis.
“Hi, Linda! I’ve come to teach Jen how to read and write.”
I was dumbfounded.
“God put a burden on my heart do to it,” she explained. “I know if I don’t, God will send somebody else. But I don’t want to miss the blessing.”
Believe me, the blessing was ours as Missy went to work. Missy is a dark-haired, five-foot-two dynamo with a big, blustery laugh and outsize tenacity. From the first minute, she made it clear that whatever needed doing, Jen was going to do it. There was love in Missy’s every word, every gesture. “No” was simply not a word in her vocabulary. She gave Jen a pen and asked her to write her name.
Jen held the pen for a moment, scribbled a few marks on the page, then said, “I can’t do it.” Again, louder and more agitated, “I can’t do it. This hurts. It hurts!”
Missy just laughed and kept on encouraging her. “You can do it, Jen. I know you can. See, you’ve already got it started.” Missy never gave up and wouldn’t let Jen give up. When Jen wasn’t interested in reading or writing, Missy would pray aloud with Jen, asking God to help her. Gradually Jen started to improve.
Before long Missy had Jen focused on reading and writing, really working at it and concentrating like never before. Missy came to our house to teach Jen three days a week. After only a few sessions, Jen completely focused on Missy for two solid hours. Lisa and I were so grateful to have a break. We watched in amazement as Jen obeyed Missy’s every instruction. Why couldn’t Jen listen to us that way? We couldn’t get her to do anything! We joked about getting black wigs and a tape of Missy’s voice so Jen would mind us as well.
Missy started helping Jen do oversize ten-piece puzzles made for toddlers. Jen would hover over the puzzle and put her face right up to it to see it, unable to do it without help. Missy spent hours teaching Jen her ABCs and numbers. They would write them down and use flashcards over and over again. Gradually they worked up to “C is for cat” and “D is for dog.” Once that clicked, it was like a lightbulb went on in Jen’s brain, and her language skills started to come back. Jen was like a small child growing up all over again. For instance, when Andy came home from work, she would squeal in delight at the door and wait to hug him like a three-year-old.
Reading the simplest words remained a stumbling block. Jen couldn’t even read a one-word caption for a picture: “house,” “bird,” “flower.” One day Missy had her color a picture of a horse. When she scribbled only on the left-hand side of the page, we realized again how severe her vision loss was. Though eye problems kept her from reading, Missy discovered she could write. The biggest motivator in getting her to practice was to have her write verses of Scripture or prayers to the Lord. The words were a spidery jumble that ran off the page, sometimes with words scrawled on top of each other.
One of her first sentences was, “Thank You for giving me the brain injury.” Though by that time I cried at practically anything, these words opened the floodgates wide again. She had no idea—no memory—of all the things her injury had robbed her of. All she knew was that she had a hardwired connection with the Lord, lived in His presence, and trusted Him absolutely to use her in whatever way would best glorify Him.
Surprising things she said out loud gave me a hint of how deep her spiritual waters were flowing, even though she expressed herself very simply. “Mom,” she declared, “your problem is that your brain gets in the way. You think too much! You have to just trust God.”