Mary Grace Whalen - A sampling of my work
Mary Grace Whalen - Writer/Blogger/Educator
A small sampling of my work 

Here is a link to Hearing Health Foundations's "repurposed" version of my blog on dating and hearing loss: 

(my monthly column in Silent News no longer in publication) 
     One Sunday afternoon, while walking down to the shore, I spotted a small-framed man with a huge dog approaching the same area, walking in front of me.  
     As I walked toward the beach, I noticed the man kicking the curb, as if to measure the distance to the street as he steered and navigated the course of man's best friend.
     At some point, he and I took different paths, as I reveled in the beauty of the sea, mesmerized by the glistening waves.  
     I attempted to exit the park, but felt compelled by the vision in front of me.
     The man entering the park, sitting under a tree with his dog, staring out in the distance, unable to see the beauty in front of him.  
     After a few minutes of debating with myself if I should approach him, I decided to take a chance.  Would he be offended by my approach?  Would he feel threatened by my presence?  
     Then I remembered how many times my daughter Valerie made a special effort to make sure I wa an integral part of conversations at family and social gatherings.  She would often summarize what she sensed I missed, repeating the punch line of jokes ...such insight!
     He and I exchanged a few pleasant words, then I took a chance.  I asked him if he would like for me to describe the beauty of what was in front of him.  His response was, "please, please."  
     I described the rolling meadows, the wildflowers, the stone wall, a tiny gazebo in the distance, the blue sky and the majesty of the ocean.  As we spoke, he would ask me questions about how far right or left things were, colors, etc.  
     In conversing, he told me that he lost his eyesight seven years ago, came to this country a few years ago on a plane with no vision or knowledge of the English language, and retained his job as a computer programer with the help of adaptive equipment.
     He went on to speak about the two-year old child whose face he has never seen, and the isolation associated with his blindness, --something those of us with hearing impairments know so well.  He grinned and told me how he sometimes dreams in vivid color, and how it reminds him of the beauty he once knew.
     When he thanked me for including him in a way others often forget, I knew I did the right thing.
     In leaving the park, I watched him travel up the road, and the struggle this man has overcome just in "getting from here to there."
     His name was Omar.
     Thanks Omar, for touching my life in a special way.
     Thanks Valerie, my dear daughter, for teaching me "things your mother never taught you."  
Silent News © Copyright March 1995


Intangible Gifts (from Journeys)
     As we leave the holidays, our thoughts turn to seasons past and warm memories that often leave an indelible mark in our hearts.  It is natural that we think of the good times we have shared with family and friends and the gifts we have exchanged that symbolize the love and endearment we have for each other.  
     In September 2001, I suddenly lost my husband of 32 years to complications of heart disease.  He had his first heart attack at the age of 39, an age which several of his uncles also had suffered heart attacks and died.  But he seemed to beat the odds. He returned home the second week of December, after a twenty-three day stay in the cardiac care unit of our local hospital.
     There were few tangible gifts that holiday season.  The gift my daughters and I will always cherish when recalling that year is that we continued to know and love Ed for sixteen more years than we had expected.
     Over the years, Ed gave us many intangible gifts.  At his funeral my sister read a eulogy that stated, "His face glowed with love for his wife and daughters."  That look in his hazel-green eyes is the gift I will remember most.
     Ed's greatest traits were his integrity, honor, modesty and simplicity.  He was a bright man with a vast knowledge base.  Maybe someday his grandchildren will read some of his books and get to know the grandfather they never knew.
     He was a very compassionate and caring man who had the ability to empathize.  Both times that I went into labor with my daughters, Ed developed stomach pains.  It was kind of humorous because I wasn't sure if he was going to drive me to the hospital or if I was going to have to drive him there.
     We always knew, through triumphs large and small that he was rooting for us.  My daughter Valerie told me one day after losing her father, "Someday when I get married, it doesn't matter who will be holding my arm when I walk down the aisle.  I know Daddy will be holding my other arm."
     I don't believe that those we love and have lost ever stop being a part of our lives.  Whatever they gave us is ours for always.  for that reason, they are always with us.
     And so, on that day in September of 2001, my daughters and I stayed with my husband after his heart surgery from dawn to dusk.  We didn't know it at the time, but this would be the last time we would see him.  He lovingly kissed and hugged us and told us that he loved us.  He joked a bit as he often would do to take the edge off the seriousness of the situation.  He looked peaceful and content.
     After saying goodbye that day, once more before walking out the door of his hospital room, I remember turning around and looking back at him.  He was smiling that devilish smile he had.  And one last time, I saw that look that glowed with love.  I will remember that look when I have a tough day, because it encompasses all that we shared and all of the intangible gifts he left behind.  And I know that wherever I go, whatever I do, he is still behind me, rooting for me.
Reprinted with permission from © copyright Hospice Foundation of America January 2003
Such a Wise Spider (From Silent News, No longer in publication)
     Recently while browsing through a Children's Library in my community, I stumbled upon a beautiful book that took on a special significance to me.  A teacher who specializes in special education commented to me, "Did you ever notice how if you read a book when you are a kid and then re-read it in adulthood, your perspective of the theme becomes clearer?"
I thought about this, and scanned through a few books, but one in particular caught my attention, even though I had not read it previously.  The name of the book is I Wish I Were a Butterfly by James Howe. 
     Had I read this book when I was a child, I would have simply seen it as one of those stories with an "ugly duckling" theme.  But today, it made me think about all the transitions we make in a lifetime, and how often late-deafened friends lament that they wish their lives could return to their pre-deafened state.
     In the story, I Wish I Were A Butterfly, a despondent cricket enlists the support of an elderly wise spider, who helps him to realize his own self worth.  
     Somewhere along the way, the tiny cricket decided that he was ugly after a toad made him feel that way.  We have all come across a few toads in our lifetime haven't we?  The cricket decided that he didn't want to see the light of day and should remain in the darkness even though most of the other crickets in Swampswallow Pond found sunrise a happy time.  Does this sound similar to some of those you know who are late-deafened and retreat to isolation?  
     These are such profound words.  
     But the stubborn little critter continues to become repulsed at his reflection mirrored in the pond.  He is envious of the spider's skills in spinning a web, but becomes upset when the wind blows the beautiful web away.  "Ah" the spider said, "then I must begin again."  Yes, such a wise spider.  For isn't this what we must do every waking day of our lives?  We make many transitions in our lifetime, there are many beginnings and many endings.  But we must recognize the beauty we have is mirrored and reflected by our own self assessment.  And as the spider begins to spin a new web, the cricket began to fiddle.  The spider commented about the reflection he saw in the pond of "two beautiful friends."
     A butterfly passing by heard the sound of the cricket and said, "What beautiful music that creature makes.  I wish I were a cricket."
     I wish I too had met up with that wise spider and the glowworm many years ago when my hearing loss began.  Ah, yes, there is no sense in wishing for what will never be.  I will never be a butterfly, but an enlightened cricket sounds just fine to me.
Silent News © October 1995

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