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Winter 2001
THE GIFT
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Suddenly her hand shoots up. "Yes!" she signs. "I think I'm hearing a little bit!"

Michael leans toward her, smiling, as Jones continues the hour-long process of adjusting the implant, gradually progressing from soft to louder sounds. Lara signs as she hears each of the tones.

"Oh, I'm so excited! Oh! It's working!"

The adjustments finally complete, Jones asks Lara if she is ready.

"Yes," Lara signs. "I'm ready."

Jones switches on the speech processor.

Lara turns toward Michael, who looks into her wide-open eyes and says, "I love you."

Lara falls away from him in her chair, as if the wave of sounds that are his words is literally blowing her away.

"I can hear!" she signs. She bursts into tears. "I heard your voice, and it's beautiful!"

They hug. They kiss.

Her daughter Krystle steps forward and speaks, then her father and mother. "Beautiful!" Lara signs. "I am hearing you for the first time. All I can say is wow! I can hear your voices! I'm so happy!"

They hug and kiss and sign and talk and hug and kiss some more before breaking for lunch. Afterward, it is Michael's turn. When Jones finishes his adjustments and asks, "Are you ready?," Michael responds, "Yes."

Michael and Lara turn toward each other as Jones presses the switch. This time, Lara tells her husband, "I love you." This time, Michael falls back in his chair at the sound of her words. But this time, before he can fall back too far, Lara grabs his arm and pulls him toward her and kisses his fingers and they both cry and laugh and say again to each other, "I love you."

And this time, they both hear it.

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