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  • Writer's pictureJaime Pollard-Smith

When Words Disappear

Conversation and words keep me inspired. I love everything about them. Perhaps it’s because I am a preacher’s daughter, but I believe in the power of the spoken word. Reading aloud is still common practice in my college classroom. My daughter shares this passion and reads to me almost daily. An audiobook read by the author can make time stand still. Just last night our book club FaceTimed with Allison Moorer, and trust me when I say, her voice is sweet Southern syrup. I would listen to her read the dictionary. A beautiful voice speaking heartfelt words can sweep me off my feet.

But what happens when words suddenly disappear? How do you hear a voice when it has gone mute?

In my mom’s final days at Hospice, I was the only one using my voice. Mom had lost her ability to speak several years before. Early onset Alzheimer’s turned her speech to gibberish and eventually silenced her completely. She could not tell me what hurt or what she needed. She could not express her love or assure me that I would be okay in a world without her. Her silence broke me. She was an English teacher who taught me to love language.

Then one day her words disappeared.

As I stood beside her for the last time, listening to her gasping for every single breath, I used my voice to fan the faint flame in her soul. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…” Her steely blue eyes stared into my deepest being as I sang. Without a word spoken, I heard my Momma. She spoke to me in a universal language not limited by symbols and letters.

This scene was in my mind as I listened to a good friend describing her son who has level 3 autism. This is not the autism we have come to expect on sitcoms, the socially awkward child who knows an unusual amount of facts about sea animals or outer space. This is autism’s dark older sibling who came in the night and took her baby boy from her. This five year old son has lost his words. He is non-verbal and prone to self-harm with uncontrollable tantrums. My brave friend is confronted with a painfully harsh reality sans dialogue.

Yet, I listened to her describe how he communicates with her. He hears his Momma because she is speaking a universal language of love that transcends barriers of human conversation. And no, does that mean it is not painful as hell and soul-crushing? Of course not. But I do know that as much as we might rely on the human voice and words, there are other ways to reach the heart. I asked her if he makes eye contact. “Yes, he is actually really affectionate.” I have witnessed their connection, and though I am a lover of words, it is truly a wonder to behold when there are moments so sincere and full of connection that words become unnecessary. No caption needed.

I know that she faces an uncertain and scary future. I also know that I can’t say anything to make her feel better or lessen her pain. A momma’s heart doesn’t break; it shatters. But I do promise to hear all of her words or just sit with her and absorb the silence. I can tell her that while I do not fully understand her pain, I know how it feels to see someone you love trapped within her own body. I have witnessed the hostage situation and failed negotiations. I will offer to hold her hand as she continues to love her sweet baby boy with more than just words.



Members of the CrossFit Jane community will be joining forces with other fitness communities from across the area to raise funds and awareness for the Autism Strong Foundation on May 2, 2020.

AMRAP 4 Autism is a community fitness charity event with a simple goal of awareness, support and most importantly love for those impacted with autism. Founded in 2013 in Charlotte NC, and now growing to multiple states and countries around the world, A4A is excited to have you join us on this journey of helping those in need.

Why We WOD...

1 in 58 children in the US is impacted by autism. Many of these families cannot afford the therapy these children need to learn, communicate and even speak. We believe coming together as a community can create hope. This hope can fuel the passion to change the future for autism, 1 AMRAP at a time.

You can donate by visiting my team's fundraising page here. Thank you for your support.

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