The Girl Who Cannot Speak

Every Thursday night the woman leaves her house and drives over soft hills to the home of an Amish family. She walks up to the door, and they let her in with smiles and the typical Amish greeting of a handshake, a nod, a kind word. They walk her to the bedroom of one of their daughters.

The woman walks in and holds the girl. Perhaps she reads to her from time to time – I’m not sure. The girl does not respond, or at least not in an obvious way. She was shot in the head years ago, and she has never recovered completely. The fact that she lives is a miracle. Perhaps now her eyes show some recognition of the kind woman who comes to her house every Thursday. Perhaps the touch of a smile graces the child’s mouth. I don’t know for sure.

Then the woman leaves. I don’t know if she stays for an hour or if it’s longer than that. Perhaps she eats a meal with the family. I’m not concerned about the lack of details in this story, because there is one thing that matters: the woman’s son is the one who shot the young Amish girl after he tied her up in the schoolhouse, five years ago.

It matters, and it doesn’t matter.

* * * * *

The woman takes the Amish children to a swimming pool, but in Nickel Mines the Amish do not engage in “mixed” swimming. So sometimes the boys come over. Sometimes the girls.

When it’s the girls’ turn, the woman changes that one little girl, the one who can no longer speak, into a swimsuit, then carries her into the pool. There is something strangely beautiful about this adult carrying a larger child: the long limbs and arms, perhaps half a decade from adulthood, dangle down towards the water like the limp branches of a willow tree. The woman walks quietly through the water, talking to the young girl, moving her so that the coolness stirs around them like a low cloud brushing up against one of those soft hills. The sun sparkles off the water – the light in a child’s eyes.

There is something strangely beautiful about forgiveness. Unprecedented paths open up, things as unlikely as an “English” woman holding an Amish girl close in a swimming pool, moving her through the water.

28 Replies to “The Girl Who Cannot Speak”

  1. I was on a Zondervan tour signing books in Sugar Creek, Ohio when I met the woman you’re talking about. “Met” is too strong a word. We had a little extra time and had stopped in a historical museum there, one that artistically depicted the Amish journey from Europe to America. There were probably 8 of us in this circular room. When the tour was over, our guide–Eli, told us who she was. She had not said one word the entire time. Thank you for sharing this story with us.

  2. Wow..her heart gives so much love to that Amish family,and vice versa…thanks for sharing this beautiful story, Vannetta!

  3. wow! my heart is stirred. something that they give to each other that is powerful. 2 feminine hearts who have been crushed and shattered and forever changed by those few hours on that dreadful day. something healing about the wounded being able to walk together silently. something healing about being able to give to one whom your own offspring has wounded/scared. Sometimes giving love is as healing as receiving love. . powerful story. thank you for sharing!

  4. I pray for God’s loving peace and love to just wash over the mother, the girl, her family and All that were touched by this terrible thing! I remember this……

  5. Shawn your story is great i love it (may God bless the Amish from nickle mines) keep up the great stories

  6. I had tears in my eyes as I read this- never in my life could I imagine someone doing what was done at Nichols Mine School – pure tragedy!!! But I have to say in the years since it seems as if it has brought the community closer together than ever- Amish- Englisher- all people that love God are bound together!!! What amazes me is the forgiveness that the Amish had at a time like this. I have read so many books about the Nichol Mines school shooting- this is one of the most touching stories that I have read- purely amazing!!!

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