| My sister, Claire (name changed for her privacy) was born deaf. Of course, we didn't know that right away. I was thirteen when she was born and I wanted as much as anyone to hear her speak her first word. But it was slow in coming. Seven, eight, nine, ten months passed and she still never said that word every mother waits to hear, "ma ma". Not only did she not say it, she didn't seem to notice us trying to teach her. She lacked focus.
One morning, which I remember clearly as if it were yesterday, mom was holding a one year old Claire in the kitchen as I helped with dinner. I dropped a pan on the tile floor. Everyone turned toward the loud sound except for Claire. She didn't bat an eye and mom noticed. The next day marked the beginning of years and years of doctor's visits, speech therapy, surgeries, hearing aid fittings, and blessings. Dozens upon dozens of blessings.
Mom believed Claire would be healed. When one blessing failed to produce the desired result, she found a man with stronger priesthood, a higher calling or a new set of missionaries to try again. And again. And again. Most of the blessings promised a healing if we only had enough faith. Some simply stated that Claire would learn to live with her handicap and lead a productive and happy life as a strong, but deaf, Latter-Day Saint. Those were the blessings that broke our hearts and left my mother entirely unsatisfied. She would seek out someone else to bless Claire.
What hurt the most were the testimonies we endured of missionaries and members of the miraculous healings in their families. We heard how blind investigators emerged from the waters of baptism able to see. We heard of people cured of inoperable cancer. We even heard from a missionary that a girl on his brother's mission was healed of deafness by a blessing from his brother. I know now that those were all faith promoting rumors, but at the time, it hurt to know that for some reason, God just wouldn't hear our prayers. He refused to heal Claire, and it was probably because of our own failings.
Finally, a home teacher gave Claire a blessing and said that she was foreordained in the pre-existence to be born deaf and that she wouldn't be healed. We'd heard that before, but, for whatever reason, after years and years of hopping from one priesthood holder to another seeking blessings, mom decided to accept that blessing as God's final word on the matter. I don't recall any blessings since that point. Really, we'd all had about as much as we could take.
Claire's still deaf. But she's no Latter-Day Saint. She left the church about six months after I did. I had the privilege of helping her write her exit letter and serving as the interpreter when the Bishop called to talk her out of her decision. She's plugging her way through college and working part time at her school's computer lab.
She told me how embarrassed and frustrated she used to be at my mother's desperate attempt to find the magical blessing that would heal her. I said she should feel guilty for all the fasting on her behalf I was forced to endure and she replied, "It never hurt you to miss a meal!" Real funny, Claire.
I'm amazed by Mormon belief in blessings. I believed in them, despite every reason not to. But I guess even true believers have their limits. Our whole family, Claire especially, was relieved when Mom finally accepted the fact that they weren't going to work. We were all so much happier after that.