My 2020 Birth-Day

The mask is smelly.

I can’t breathe.

“Count down from ten…”

Don’t make me do this.

I refuse to count.

My refusal doesn’t count.

Hours later, I wake.


20 years ago today, my silence was born.

As with most births, it wasn’t pain-free.

Unlike most births, it didn’t result in a bundle of joy.

Like many births, it was anticipated and prepared for.

I started finding rainbows on the day I was told I needed the surgery that, in saving my life, would kill my hearing.

Rainbows. Joy-glimpses.

Back then, I had no idea that, twenty years later, I would look back and see colours weaving into rainbows more beautiful than I could have imagined.

On the day when my refusal didn’t count, and in the terrifyingly silent days and weeks that followed, I couldn’t imagine life beyond existence.

But that was back then.

I miss my hearing, even after twenty years. Silence and I are increasingly comfortable companions; I wouldn’t call us friends. But, without the silence, I might not have seen the rainbows.

Here are 20 rainbow-candles on my deafness birthday cake:

  • The surgeon(s) who saved my life (again and again)
  • People speaking clearly for me to lipread
  • My niece telling me that ‘my doll is deaf. She’s like you’
  • A cup of tea (tastes just as good as it ever did!)
  • Opportunities to write books (and people that read them)
  • People telling me what they can hear
  • Trees and flowers and waterfalls
  • My family and friends
  • Learning that there is strength in weakness
  • Speaking using sign language and/or voice
  • My music memory
  • Text/email
  • Singing in the shower
  • Subtitles/captions
  • People being patient with me
  • Reading books to my nieces and nephews
  • God, who never leaves me
  • Coffee and chat with friends
  • People forgetting I am deaf
  • Everyone I meet (ok, that one might be cheating a bit, but really, people are so nice)

I’m going to blow out the candles now.

As I do, I won’t make a wish.

I’ll say ‘thank you’ for each candle, plus the ones that didn’t fit on the cake.

Each candle, and each person, in my life is a light which illuminates my silence.

20/20 vision means normal vision. It means vision that isn’t different.

I don’t have 20/20 hearing, if such a term exists.

My hearing – or lack of – is very different from the ideal.

And I am grateful, every day, for the candles that show me, again and again, that my deafness is part of me but it does not define me.

I watched J.John speaking at an online church service this morning, and he defined compassion as ‘being a rainbow in someone’s cloud.’

Thank you, for whatever part you have played in my life, even if reading this blog is the first time you’ve met me.

Rainbows show up in sometimes-unexpected places.

And each one makes life more beautiful for me.

When my goddaughter learned that I am deaf, she said, ‘It doesn’t matter that you can’t hear, you’re still special.’

I hope that she, now a teenager, won’t mind me misquoting her slightly:

It matters less that I can’t hear, because of the people in my life. Each one is special. Each one is a rainbow.

Writing in Still Emily about the time just before I lost my hearing, I wrote; ‘If only my future could be a life I never had to know.’

Well, 20 years on, it’s a life I do know. And, thanks to my God, my family, my friends, people I meet, my medical teams, it’s a life I am privileged to know.

‘There are always rainbows somewhere in the rain.’ (Still Emily)

‘I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.’ (Romans 8:38)

Please help yourself to a slice of cake!

slice of cake with candle on top

21 thoughts on “My 2020 Birth-Day”

  1. As always Emily you leave me in awe of your positive slant on the issues you have to face together with pride and privilege to be a friend xx

  2. Janet Morgan Phillips

    O Emily, I’m in tears … and in grateful awe as you help all of us hear with our hearts what we would otherwise miss without you!! You not only help us ‘hear’, you help us see!!
    You enable us to see so much through sharing your God-graced experience and perspective. And you pass on that Grace so we’ll be moved by Him to be rainbows in others’ clouds. May it be So!!
    Everything about this post so totally captures your heart and His!!!
    I’m going to be sharing it. By His Grace may I also be living it!!

  3. You are like the sunshine opposite the rainbow. I give God thanks for you that you are more than capable, willing and able to do all that you do. You are such an inspiration to so many. God bless you Emily. Thank you. The cake was lovely too.

  4. I have met you at various CBS Conferences but I had no idea you were deaf until I heard you interviewed on UCB radio! It may be that I am very unobservant, but I prefer to think it is that you communicate so well and therefore it isn’t an issue. Your Blog is so encouraging – as are your books. Thank you, Emily.

    1. Thank you. And thank you for encouraging me back.
      I don’t think you are unobservant – I think that you spoke clearly for me to lipread so, as you say, it wasn’t an issue.
      Lovely that you heard me on UCB, it’s nice to think of that. I sometimes forget that people still listen to radio!

  5. Dear Emily, at first I was lost for words, but then I remembered these words of Scripture: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace” (Num 6:24-26).

    1. Thank you, Karen. It is easier to find positives at times than at others. Perhaps I should do a list of the gaps between the rainbows. I wrote in my memoir about rainbows sometimes being hard to find. I hope you had a positive in today.

  6. Your writing and your talks are so inspirational, when I first met you I wondered where this comes from, as I have gotten to know you and how deep you faith is, there is only one answer and that is ……… from God. He has used you to inspire and touch the lives of everyone you meet through your writing, speaking and being who you are. I feel very honoured to call you my friend. Thank you x

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