Recently I have been to stay with my cousin, Judith Saulez and family in Durban. It was great to be able to spend some quality time with them. Their three daughters go to Durban Girls College. When I was twelve I went there for two years. I was a weekly boarder and I remember those times of a laughter filled schoolgirl with a smile. Judith had mentioned to the Headmaster that I would be staying with her for a few days. His response was immediate: “Do you think that Gaynor would come and say a few words to the school in assembly? She can speak for fifteen minutes as long as it has a spiritual feel to it. She can take the Chaplin’s place. It would be a wonderful way to start the children’s day.”
The night beforehand I had gone over which points I should speak on with Judith. Let me tell you, that squeezing my one hour speech into a mere fifteen minutes, one has to be ruthless in what one cuts out.
I was nervous. I was incredibly nervous. I was used to speaking to three hundred adults in a conference situation, not speaking to seven hundred school girls. Children can be incredibly critical and can sense when you are trying to pull the wool over their eyes.
The school led in to assembly. I followed the Headmaster and staff onto the stage. How strange and topsy-turvy like to be sitting there. I used to be sitting where all those dark green clad, fresh faced girls now gazed up at me with interest. After singing the morning hymn, we had a reading and a prayer. Then the Headmaster, Thomas Hagepihl (Mr H!) introduced me and I took my place behind the beautiful antique lectern. I thought back to my days of watching our Headmistress, Ms Christison, standing so beautifully poised behind this lectern. ‘No,’ I admonished myself, ‘no thinking of Chrissie now. You have a speech to do. Get started!’
“Hi” there, everyone! It is really great for me to be back here. Yes, I used to be a College girl, just like you…” I began my speech. I spoke well! (Modest, aren’t I?) I did all the points that I had mentioned with Judith. Judith and I had decided that it would be great for me to finish with my story of the rainbow. Having only 40% eyesight my vision is limited and as a result I am unable to drive. Very frustrating! My perception of this limitation was changed when I saw this magnificent rainbow. Judith knew I was just about finished and was getting ready to clap when I suddenly pointed to my ears and said: “Now, my Cochlear Implants!”
‘Oh no, Gaynor, you haven’t got time!’ Judith thought.
As if hearing her, I turned to the Head and teachers onstage with me and said: “I’m sorry, I won’t be much longer…” I told the girls of the wonder of my Cochlear Implants. I told them of all the things that I was previously deaf to but which I am now able to hear – the chirping and twittering of birds, young children’s voices, TV, music, films. After my accident, I used to lie in bed and pray: “Please Lord, heal me of my deafness. Make me hear again.” The Lord hasn’t healed me of my deafness. When I take my CI’s off I am as deaf as 43 doornails. But he has made me hear again! And I am so incredibly grateful for that.
I finished my speech by saying: “I am unbelievably fortunate in that I love life. I love it because of it’s ups and downs. I am also incredibly blessed in that I can hear the enchanting chirping of the birds and I can see the unearthly beauty of something like a rainbow.”
The applause went on and on. I looked down at those smiling faces, clapping madly and sitting amongst those applauding girls I could see a twelve year old Gaynor smiling back at me.
Judith then took me around the school. I remembered it fairly clearly but there had also been many changes. I peeped into one classroom which was this mass of computers. They weren’t there in my day! We went down to College House, my boarding establishment. I hadn’t been in that building since I was thirteen years old. I recognised our old prep room, our dining hall. And then we walked upstairs and my feet took me to my old dormitory. I shared a cubicle with Marian Hammond! Glory, the memories came flooding in…..
Walking around the school, I was frequently congratulated by teachers and schoolgirls alike on my speech. Then we were stopped by this woman who introduced herself as Erin. Apparently she was the Zulu teacher and also the school’s Senior Primary Counsellor. What she said took my breath away.
“I heard you speak when I was sixteen. I was a wreck at the time because in a weeks time I was going in for brain surgery. I listened to you and all my fears fell away. You gave me such courage and hope. Thank you, Gaynor!”
Later Judith received this e-mail from her:
I just want to thank you for creating the opportunity for me to see one of my greatest inspirations again. She is an incredible woman who in my eyes is an angel in human form. Have a wonderful day, Erin
I burst into tears. Yes, I am an “inspiration” to people. I am aware of that. But there is a difference between knowing you are an inspiration and actually meeting a person and hearing first hand how your life has impacted on someone else’s and made a difference. I battle with why God allowed my accident to happen. That day at Durban Girls College I was able to look at my accident in a new light.
I was able to see why my Lord had allowed me to live!