by Sue, a Lay Minister who was born as a deaf person
Lockdown/shut down, frustration, isolation, loneliness was a normal life for me…then Covid 19 came to stay and our lives have turned upside down!
I am used to being isolated and frustrated, as are most deaf and deafened people, but this was something new and a challenge – how would I survive this?
No one to Skype with as my camera packed up, and peering at my phone to Skype gives me a headache. No text messages from the grandchildren (should I text to let them know I am still alive?). At least I have Facebook and can have a little chat with my brother who lives abroad, but no-one else uses it or thinks to use it to chat with me.
We have two family allotments next to each other. I can go there and have a chat with my daughter and a cuppa together on each others’ plots without breaking the rules and a distant chat with other allotment holders – except they are too far away and I can’t see to lipread, so we inch a little closer because they can’t hear my soft voice, (soft because I am terrified of having the classic ‘loud deaf voice’). The sun is in our eyes so we stand under a nearby apple tree and now it’s too dark for me to see to lipread again. A bit of shuffling about again, like some sort of weird crabdance, and we can converse.
And then there’s church.
I mainly only attend the small Tuesday morning service (in one church of the team) where we sit round a table in the back. Despite being only at arms length away I can’t hear the person opposite me or sometimes next to me, but we are a friendly little group and we manage together. I attend church (main one of the team) some Sunday’s but if it wasn’t for the service sheet handed out it would quite literally go through one ear and out the other. There being no other deaf person there I sign to myself. A brief text informed me church was closed and my heart sank – how can I live without my Tuesday mornings?
Facebook came to the rescue.
Church services online and hopefully subtitled or at least with things written down to follow, except it rarely happens. A still photo of the church, while someone talks in the background is no good to me. Even being informed to download the service sheet doesn’t help as I have no idea where we have got to.
Please remember the deaf and hard of hearing. Do I know how to do open subtitles? Alas no. One day they did have a go but they forgot to tell me, so I missed it. It didn’t work very well, it was hilarious (or so I am told) with mistakes but at least they tried. Nor does informing me near the end of the service that there will be open subtitles on Youtube – what good is that? It’s a bit late isn’t it? And as far as I know it hasn’t been done again.
The vicar has a go at signing the Peace (got it off google) and I sit and cry. Not because he has done it for me, but because I have sat for months in church on Sunday’s and only one person has asked me to show them how to sign the Peace – and it wasn’t the vicar. Why couldn’t you ask and do it for me in all those months? Why have I had to wait until now?
Bored, I explore Facebook. I come across the Ex -Salvationists and, as I was brought up in the Army (I haven’t been for the last 40 yrs) and have relatives still there, I sign up and joy of joys, someone posts the UK Territorial Officers doing a little talk with subtitles. I fall on it like some starving soul desperate for bread (it’s been 5 years since I last had any access to a sermon). I can’t wait for it each week. I pray that when this is all over they will continue, otherwise I will die of starvation for want of spiritual food. Even the General has a little talk, subtitled, and if it isn’t, it is written out in full. By contrast I have yet to find one by the Archbishop of Canterbury with subtitles.
Things have improved – there are services with signing (thank you Gill), which allowed me to join in with the retirement service of the Archbishop of York and I was delighted to see him sign (I wonder who taught him?). Locally Evening Prayer, although not subtitled, is at least written out so I can follow it. I have my Bible to hand, but I have to read fast and ahead to make sure I know where we are when the virtual page changes. Prayers, I do on my own as I can’t hear that bit and on Sunday’s I don’t hear the sermon but that is normal life for me to miss out on things. and I do what I normally do – I either think on one of the readings or I daydream instead.
Zoom is useless as I can’t lipread everyone. I can’t help smiling when the muted mic causes problems for people – welcome to my world!
But…despite the problems I do get more out of the online services than sitting in church.
Normal life for me is to feel shut down, isolated and very frustrated and very lonely and that is just in the church service. Online, despite the problems, I am equal, one of them, part of the world-wide company of Christians.
Lockdown is easing, life is slowly returning to ‘normal’ but will the services still be online? Or will my lockdown/shut down, frustration, isolation, loneliness be once again normal life for me?