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While waiting to board my plane a woman sat down next to me. Another woman, in a wheelchair, was placed facing her by an airline attendant. The configuration of our seats and the wheelchair put us in very close proximity to one another. Leaving zero privacy for any conversation that would take place between them.

I came to learn they were mother and daughter.

Within seconds the daughter asked her mom a question. It was then that I found out mom did not have the motor skills to speak her words clearly. In fact, for me, they were impossible to understand. But for her daughter, they were as clear as a bell. I was in awe by their ability to converse so effortlessly. The light and love that exuded from them and between them was truly magnificent.

My Heart Is Filled

I’m not sure what came over me in that moment but I suddenly found myself saying to them;

“Hearing the two of you communicate so easily is filling my heart to the brim.”

Remember, I’m inches away from them and very much in their space given the way the seats and wheelchair are positioned.

After my comment they both looked at each other and started laughing. I wasn’t sure what to make of that but I was certain I wanted the floor to open up and suck me in.

Perhaps noticing my slight embarrassment, the daughter put her hand on my arm and said, “Oh I’m so sorry! We’re not laughing at you! We’re laughing at remembering what it was like for us three months ago after mom had her stroke. The difficulty to understand anything she said was off the charts and it was incredibly frustrating for both of us.”

Their Journey

She then went on to tell me about their journey to get where they are today with each other. How it was like being deaf and needing to learn to lip read. The need to watch her mom’s mouth, listen to every sound, every possible letter being formed, every tone, every nuance coming out of her mouth. It took about two weeks before things started to click in her brain for greater ease of understanding.

She shared that the biggest shift took place when they chose to release the frustration and start laughing at the absurdity of the whole process. It was then that things became easier and definitely more fun.

And she said, “I learned to listen to and observe someone in a way I never have before. I had to listen with a blank slate in me and that, too, was a game changer for us.

Now that’s a powerful statement!

What most likely started out as a devastating moment in life, became one of life’s beautiful gifts. Learning to keep communicating until you’re understood and how to listen fully so the person is understood.

Given the history that exists between family members, listening without our past imprints getting in the way is even more challenging.

But for these two beautiful souls, no matter what their relationship was like prior to mom’s stroke, it is clear that what they have now with each other, actually transcends any words.

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Linda Salazar

Author Linda Salazar

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