She wears bows bigger than life, her Nike shorts are monogramed and even the one word she can speak has a bit of a draw to it; she’s Southern so it would only come natural for her to love some country music. He pulled up a chair, crossed one leg over another and his fingers met the strings that brought a smile I see only when she is truly in her happy place.
It all started with a feeding, Good Morning America and Luke Bryan. All the world seemed to stop around her while her fingers moved to each beat, her head moved back and forth and sounds came from her mouth as if she was singing with him. Usually a very quiet and nonverbal little girl the sound of his music brought her to life. Albums were downloaded to iTunes, wireless speakers were set up around the house and every car ride was centered around our new friend. Luke was everywhere … headphones while we shopped, long waits for doctor appointments and even in therapy and school. Elizabeth was often asked if she loved Luke and you would see this silly grin appear, hear the click of her tongue and before long she was blowing kisses into the air and giggling as only a school girl with a crush could.
After Elizabeth’s surgery in December, as we mourned the loss of her vision I was so very thankful that she had retained her hearing. I couldn’t imagine her not being able to hear the voices of those who love her most, the sounds of the world around her and the music that brought her such joy. The doctors encouraged us to slowly and cautiously fill her hospital room with everything familiar hoping it would trigger a sense that would comfort her and miraculously somehow bring her vision back. It would have to be baby steps and much like when she was in NICU I found myself convincing the nurses and doctors that I felt she was ready, whether they did or not. I carefully covered Elizabeth’s ears with her favorite beats praying the words of Play It Again would soothe her as it had so many times before but instead she shook her head no and began to cry. I feared she would never love music again and felt her already tiny little world would become dark and quiet. A rumor surfaced that Luke was coming to Little Rock and those that love Elizabeth the most began working behind the scenes hoping to get this little girl in front of Luke and help Elizabeth find her sound again. We would have glimmers of hope that he would be willing to meet her before the concert but those became just rumors. I was determined to have Elizabeth at that concert but the more I tried help her find that once great love for his music the more she pushed back and began to move deeper into that silence she seemed so content to live in.
I began to accept that Elizabeth would never love music again as she once did. It was much like grieving the loss of her vision, she was slipping into a sightless and quiet world. My once happy little girl had lost her smile and I wondered if we would ever see her again as we had before the surgery. Elizabeth has an amazing fan base, each person unique in their own way and what they do for her. There are those that make up her team of prayer warriors and spend hours praying for a little girl who some have never met. There are those who spend hours a day with her teaching her inside a classroom and others who work one on one with her to help make her life physically better. She has a fan base that even surprises me at times. So when that call came in late one afternoon this spring from someone who was new to this life with Elizabeth I was simply overwhelmed by her selfless generosity to help us find Elizabeth’s sweet smile again.