“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Jer. 31:3
(written April 16, 2009)
Rhema and I were doing our usual bedtime routine when I remembered that I had forgotten to put some ointment under her nose (she was very chapped from a lingering cold). I jumped out of her top bunk and headed out the door. As I went out, I heard ‘Iiii yew’ in her sing-song voice.
She had been doing the “vocal stimming” thing all day long. Humming, making noises and intonations, singing sounds non-stop. It had become part of the background noise.
So when she sang, “Iiii yew”, I almost missed it.
Did she just try to say ‘I love you’?, I thought as I ran down the stairs. Nah. Impossible.
I returned with the ointment and finished tucking her into bed. I whispered her verse to her, kissed her cheek, and climbed down. My mind was already on the dirty dishes awaiting me. For the quadrillionth time I said what I always say as I leave her room, “I love you. Night, night.”
Just as I was closing the door, I heard a song, the sweetest song.
“Iiiii luh yew. Nigh Nigh.”
My heart stopped. I was suddenly afraid to hope, afraid to want something that bad.
“Rhema? I love you.”
“Iiiii luh yew.”
“I love you.” I said again.
And just because God is God…. just because He knew I’d doubt the moment… and just because He can sign His name on a blessing so you know for sure it’s from Him…
Rhema looked at me through the slats in her headboard and said it a third time,
“Iiiii luh yew.”
In an instant, every burden lifted, every pain forgotten, every dream realized…
in three 3 precious words.
I closed her door and stood there in the hallway with tears in my eyes, not wanting to ever forget that feeling. The words to the Sara Groves song filled my head, Hope has a way of turning its face to you just when you least expect it…
I did not need to hear it. There are ways besides words to express love, and we have been learning how to do it. It has been so special for us to communicate our love to Rhema – the lack of language requires us to be more demonstrative. We love on her on purpose. And it has been so nice to see her open up in the past year. She will, on occasion, seek us out for affection – sometimes it’s a hug, a touch, a smile, or a gaze from those beautiful brown eyes.
I did not need to hear it, but even still, I’ve been waiting. I have read beautiful accounts from other parents when they heard the words ‘I love you’ for the first time from their child. I have tried not to be envious. Once I thought it happened, but it was long ago and I honestly don’t know if I was just “hearing what I wanted to hear.”
But tonight there is no doubt, and I feel…
For those still waiting, I pray you will hear it and know it… just when you least expect it.