Christian Media: Where Truth Meets You

Raising CODA

In this bonus episode, Hershey, a mother with hearing loss, talks about what it’s like to raise two children as a deaf mom. And how God has put people in her life like the David family to help her get through the biggest challenges she’s ever faced.



Raising CODA

Aliw Pablo: Hi Hershey, how are you?

Hershey Cruz: I’m good. How are you?

Aliw Pablo: I’m good. I’m good. I’m so glad that you agreed to do this with us. But you know…

Aliw Pablo: This is Hershey. A wife and a mom of two beautiful kids, and a very close family friend of ours. And since meeting the David family from our episodes on growing up CODA or children of deaf adults, hearing their story made me think about Hershey. And here’s why.

Hershey Cruz: I am currently deaf, that’s how I identify. But I was not born deaf. I was born with perfect hearing. I’ve been a choir member since I was 8 years old. It wasn’t until my mid to late 20s when I noticed the change in the way I heard and understood sounds.

Aliw Pablo: We’ve heard from so many of you since our Growing up CODA episodes. Thank you so much for your comments and feedback. We heard a lot from moms and how it resonated with you. Well, today on this bonus episode, we’re talking about raising CODA. We’ll introduce you to Hershey, who’s in the same shoes as Brother Ronnie and  Brother Rowel’s mom, Raquel. We’ll hear about the challenges of being a mother with hearing loss. We’ll get an inside look at the deep struggles of what it’s like to raise kids as a deaf mom today. And how meeting the David family and our ASL interpreter Rose Guillermo has completely changed her perspective on her new normal, which is a completely silent world, and sometimes a lonely world.

Hershey Cruz: People would call me from across the street. So they would go up to me, “Hey, I was trying to call you but you didn’t hear me.” I said, “You were? No, I didn’t hear you at all.” You know, so during that time, people just thought I was always daydreaming. I was…

Aliw Pablo:  From INC Media Audio, you’re listening to Making Changes. A podcast about changes we go through and the life lessons we learned along the way, but always with God by our side. I’m your host, Aliw Garcia Pablo. 

Aliw Pablo: Today’s episode is Hershey’s story. She grew up hearing but with no medical explanation. She began to slowly lose her hearing until finally a few years ago, everything went completely silent.

Hershey Cruz: What I was telling God in my prayer was how will I get through that situation if I can’t hear your words of advice during the worship service?…

Aliw Pablo: She’s still able to speak but she can’t hear herself speak. Just a note though, today we’re talking to Hershey through Rose, our ASL interpreter. And in case you have a hard time understanding Hershey as a podcast, feel free to watch the video version on the INC media app complete with subtitles in sign language. Oh, and in case you haven’t seen Growing up Coda parts one and two yet, there may be some spoiler alerts towards the end of this podcast. Heads up. So come meet Hershey.

Hershey Cruz: Eventually, I started feeling like something was wrong, but I didn’t relate to hearing loss. I thought it was my brain.

Aliw Pablo: Then one morning she woke up and she felt like she was wearing permanent earplugs. When she would talk she could barely hear the sound of her voice. Then a specialist confirmed it. Her hearing loss was only getting worse until finally, she could no longer hear her husband Clint’s voice or her children’s voices. But there was one thing that truly frightened her.

Hershey Cruz: I think one of the most painful things to accept about my hearing loss was at that time was not being able to hear the hymns in the worship service. And not being able to understand the minister while he’s preaching.

Aliw Pablo: For a while she thought that maybe sitting in the front row would help her read the minister’s lips in the worship services.

Hershey Cruz: I tried my best, I was looking at the choir, I was looking at the minister. And you know, I closed my eyes. And I really felt like I was in almost, I was in an almost empty room, because I could barely make anything out. So I remember sitting there and I was crying in my seat. And I took advantage of that hour of sitting there in silence to pray. And I really remember this so clearly, I was crying because I really wanted to be a part of the worship service but not being able to hear anymore. I just felt so separated, you know, but in my prayer, I was telling God if I never hear my family again, I’m okay with it. It’s okay. I’ll accept that. But how am I supposed to live if I can’t, if I can’t hear the words like, you know, when we attend the worship service, that’s where we get our source of strength and inspiration. So what I was telling God in my prayer is how will I get through this situation, if I can’t hear your words of advice during the worship service, because it’s what makes me strong. So I finally said in my prayer. If this is your will, please give me peace of mind about it. Because right now, I’m just not peaceful. I don’t know what to do.

Hershey Cruz: But I continued to worship with my family, knowing that my faith always brought me to worship and I know that God knew what was going on. And I just had to trust that whatever was happening, there was a part of a bigger picture that I didn’t know at that time, and I just have to trust that.

Aliw Pablo: And just like Ramon and Raquel David, Hershey worshiped relying solely on the Holy Spirit. And just like how the 95th anniversary was pivotal for the David couple. For Hershey, it was the video stream worship services with our Executive Minister Brother Eduardo Manalo, that gave her so much hope and lifted up her spirits.

Hershey Cruz: And when the closed captioning came up, in other words, the subtitles, I was so happy because that was the first time ever, in a long time, that I would be able to completely understand by reading the caption. What caught me by surprise was in the corner of the TV, I saw a sign language interpreter, a brother interpreting and I thought to myself, wow, you know, the Church Administration, they are providing Interpreters for the deaf. You know, whoever’s watching and whoever is deaf can benefit from that lesson from the Executive Minister. So I thought to myself, it was like an ‘aha moment.’ Maybe if I learn sign language, in the future, I can request for an interpreter in the worship service. 

Hershey Cruz: So after that moment, after that service, I started to look up the ABCs on YouTube. And started learning slowly, you know, and moving forward after that, and my local started learning with me. A lot of the brethren started learning sign languages with me to help me, to show their love and support for me. And since then CSD was established in my district. And now I’m getting sign language interpretation every worship service.

Aliw Pablo: Wanting to learn ASL opened up a whole new world for Hershey, especially since it was becoming more and more difficult for her to communicate with her family and to just be a mom. And the everyday things of just knowing her children’s everyday needs became a struggle.

Hershey Cruz: I remember when I first started learning sign language there was about maybe it was five years ago, and my daughter was only five. She was crying because she was trying to tell me something. And I remember I just couldn’t hear her. And she just started crying. And finally, I was able to comprehend that she was trying to tell me and that she wants to buy pencils at school. During this time, I’ve already learned sign language together. So I thought it was also a moment of truth for her because she realized she needs to, she needs to sign, she needs to learn with me. Because that’s the only way to communicate with me at that point. The biggest challenge as a mom, not being able to hear them, especially when they’re sick, for example, like my son was sick, and he wakes up in the middle of the night crying. And my husband has to wake me up. Because he doesn’t want dad, he wants mom. And I can never hear them crying. You know, that they need my help. They’re in another room. Someone has to get me. I don’t know, I still identify myself as a hearing person sometimes. And over the years I had to learn that I had to change that. Because I am not a hearing person anymore. I cannot hear ambulances. I cannot hear the fire trucks. And I remember there was this one time I was driving and I remember I looked in my rearview mirror and my daughter said, “Mom, look outside!” And I’m like, Oh, there’s this fire truck right next to me. And he was getting so angry with me because I did not get out of the way. I was the only person in the lane.

Aliw Pablo: And with her son Colin who’s on the autism spectrum and his nonverbal, learning and knowing ASL has been a game changer for her.

Hershey Cruz: I remember there’s one instance where we were in the kitchen and he was trying to tell me something. And I said, “Colin, I can’t hear you. I’m sorry.” You know I was trying to explain to him. But he went in front of me and he said(making hand motion) Oh, You want a cookie? Hold on, I’m going to get you a cookie.” And he said “yes. I want a cookie!” (signing)  Now he can sign basic things like that.  So even with me and him, it’s really, our relationship is really challenging, but also a learning experience for both of us until he realizes that I can’t hear him. Those are the challenges I face as a mom.

Aliw Pablo: Well, first off, I want to, I want to raise my hat off to you because that is what you deal with on a daily basis. We can only imagine how tough it must be but yet, looking at you, you know, you’ve all, I’ve known you for many years, and you’ve always had such a positive outlook, you know, on life and always with a beautiful smile. So you’re a mom with a son? How did the Growing up CODA episodes when you watched it, what went through your mind? And how did you feel?

Hershey Cruz: Well, first of all, five years ago, when I started my deaf journey and learning sign language, I remember texting you. “Do you know anyone in the church who is going through what I’m going through, like the deaf community in the church?” And you told me, “Yes, I do. Sister Rose from New York. She was raised by deaf parents.” I remember texting her. And I remember telling her that I am losing my hearing and I need to learn sign language. And she started telling me that oh, you know, I’ve worked for, I’ve worked with deaf and the blind. You work with deaf and blind? What? You know already in my heart. You know, me going through challenges but there’s other people in this world who are going through bigger challenges than me and she was telling me stories about it. And then she went on to tell me about there’s a deaf couple in Georgia who are deacon and deaconess. And they’re very active. They don’t have an interpreter for many years now but they’re so active, they continue on in their faith. And right now their sons are in the ministry. Really! I have so many questions in my head. Because you know, how do you  navigate as a deaf couple raising two hearing sons  and then they’re now ministers. You know me from me, I have two little kids that I’m still learning as a parent, not just as a parent, but as a deaf parent. So knowing this story, that there’s another family out there who has been through it longer than I have, it really inspired me.

Aliw Pablo: And that’s how she met the David family. God began to give her people to help her on this new journey, a new chapter in her life. It gave her hope and guidance, and how to raise her kids as a deaf mom.

Hershey Cruz: And I remember whenever people asked me how, how did you get through your hearing loss and I would always mention that God, sends me people to help me to overcome and the David family was one of the families that really made me see that you do not need to hear to be able to feel God. And I remember finally meeting their mom, I was able to get her phone number and I video chatted. And she’s such an awesome, down to earth individual. And I told her that I just lost my hearing and I’m still learning and she would teach me signs and she was so patient with me and we would chat through the years. They also told me stories about how their mom had paint that big picture about how God’s eyes are big. You know, having two little kids I always wondered how am I supposed to teach my children, you know?  I’m still learning. When you use sign language, and you paint the kind of picture with your hands, it’s very impactful because you use your hands, you use your space to show your child. You use your facial expressions, you don’t use your voice, but they see you paint this big picture about how God can see everything. You know and that’s exactly how I’ve been trying to teach my daughter too so their parents set an example for me through the years just by knowing those stories. 

Hershey Cruz: So you know, when I watched the CODA video, you know, I only got bits and pieces from the David brothers five years ago. Bits and pieces but when I saw both episodes of the CODA series I was just amazed because I did not know the full story. And not only did they have to overcome so much as a deaf  couple by raising two sons but they had to struggle.  They struggle living in America, living in a hearing world, and not being able to have anyone to talk to, not being able to communicate, and knowing that the mom and dad, the mom and dad (were) able to navigate through this, and they made it look so effortless. 

Aliw Pablo: Yes. 

Hershey Cruz: They did not use their disability as an excuse to not be able to do anything; they did everything they possibly could. And every aspect of their life, you know, financially, teaching the children, just everything working hard.

Aliw Pablo: Which part in the both episodes do you think hit you the hardest?

Hershey Cruz: There are many parts. One about, one of the things that David brothers mentioned was just feeling, crying during the worship service and feeling the Holy Spirit and the kids were wondering why are they crying? You know, sometimes I don’t hear, sometimes I don’t have an interpreter when I go to church, right? But it’s what you feel in your heart. It’s not just about the interpreter, but it’s about the Holy Spirit you feel in your heart. And I really, that was very relatable to me. Very relatable to me. And also, I think it was when they were explaining  how the parents sold their house just to provide for them in the ministry and they just had no idea. You guys sold the house? What? You know, I can’t even imagine the hardship they were going through. It was so touching.

Aliw Pablo: And just like how Brother Ronnie and Brother Rowel were there for their parents. Hershey’s daughter Caitlin has been her liaison to the world.

Hershey Cruz: And you know, I always tell stories when people ask me about my daughter because when we’re out, she is my interpreter. Right now she loves that I’m not sure how she will do in the future. But right now she loves interpreting for me. But at times when I’m by myself and especially during the pandemic, I have to wear a mask and I can’t see if people are  talking to me, I just can’t. So what I did  is I ordered a pin that says I’m deaf and I have it attached to my bag or have it somewhere where if I see them, if I see that person I’m talking to, I point to it.

Aliw Pablo: And I want to know how much of a help has Sister Rose been to you in your life because she’s the first person in the church that you met as far as in the deaf community in the church. I know you share a special bond.

Hershey Cruz: Well, Sister Rose is so very, very special to me because I will tell you right now she is my first sign language teacher. So I remember contacting Sister Rose. Sister Rose I don’t have any idea, I don’t know if I can understand. So she’s…knowing Sister Rose she said, calm down first of all. You’ll get through it.  It’s gonna take time.  She was teaching me one by one each individual read. And then by the end of that session, I realized that she was teaching me Doxology! From the very moment I met her when I first met her she’s always just been so helpful. And she introduced me to her parents.

 (Video of video chatting)

Aliw Pablo: But I have a question. And I don’t know Ka Rose, if this is a technical question, but is it common for people like Hershey, they can lose their hearing but they can still speak or for some when they lose their hearing they also lose their speech.

Rose Guillermo: So this question is for me?

Aliw Pablo: Yes, it’s for you. Since you’re the expert.

Rose Guillermo: My father was born deaf. He can never voice. He never knew anything about voicing, he can call me “ost” instead of “Rose” and cannot pronounce it. I have to touch his neck, let his hand touch my neck. Rose, I wouldn’t try to feel the vibration sound, but he would not be able to do it. So because he was born deaf. But my mom, she can count in Tagalog: Isa, dalawa, tatlo, apat…. She can do that. So it really depends. But with Sister Hershey who lost her hearing at a later time. And she’s already an adult. So she has the ability to voice and that’s why, you know, she can keep that. Actually, it’s an advantage for her to use her voice still. Even though she has hearing loss. 

Aliw Pablo: That’s true. Hershey, when you speak, you said you no longer can hear your voice. Do you then just feel the vibration in your neck? Do you feel that?

Hershey Cruz: That’s a good question. I can’t hear my voice at all. And I mean you know sometimes people tell me I’m too loud or too soft. But I have no idea. So sometimes, now at present I understand why other people just want to turn off their voice. Because it’s just easier for me to turn off my voice and sign. But the challenge is I have to use my voice to people because it’ll make communication easier even though I turn it off for my own comfort. I can’t turn it off. No and yeah, I couldn’t.

Aliw Pablo:  Do you feel something here? Do you feel even though you can’t hear but do you feel a vibration? No?

Hershey Cruz: I can feel the vibration if I touch my throat. This is the same with my son. What I mean with my son and when we’re attending the worship service, since he has autism he tends to, he tends to blurt things out, right? So, I have to keep my hand near his neck. Because I can’t hear him I will know he’s talking because I feel the vibration. And yeah, that’s a challenge too for me with my son. 

Aliw Pablo: We’re so glad that Hershey is still willing to use her voice to communicate and connect with others to create awareness about Deaf culture. As a side note, I was surprised to know that after all these years, Hershey and Rose have yet to meet in person. But it’s obvious that they share a very special bond. What do you think, you know, the name of our show is Making Changes. What do you think was the biggest change in perspective that you had that allowed you to now accept your reality and what God has handed to you?

Hershey Cruz: My biggest change I think the biggest change in me is knowing that the unknown even though it’s scary, trusting God and putting Him first no matter what. I think that was the biggest change in me, because you know, when you’re going through something scary, it’s so hard. It’s so hard to trust. It’s so hard to move forward from the situation. But when you really pray hard, and you ask God for guidance, and He shows you things that you’ve never seen before, He shows you miracles in your life that has never happened to you before. It really shifts our perspective with just not trusting what you know. Not looking at the scary thing that’s in front of you. But just looking ahead. This is good for you. And you’ll find out later why.  But if you ask God to take away that fear, He’ll take it away. And He did. And that’s all fear is. It’s something that you want to keep because you don’t know what else to do. But when God takes that away, even though your situation is exactly the same? You’re happy. And that is something that I’ve always carried with me and realized through my own experience that God is the One who gives you peace of mind if you ask.

Aliw Pablo: Yeah, you have all these extended family members now in your life.

Hershey Cruz: Yes, and I remember I started with you Sister Aliw because you are the one who connected me to Sister Rose who connected it to Davids, who connected me to everything, you know. If it wasn’t for my locale at that time in Irvine, if they did not jump at the chance of learning Sign language with me… they helped me to immerse even though we’re all beginners. They helped me to immerse, they sat with me in the sign language section and little by little you know, I was picking up church signs, I was able to understand 70% of the lessons and it became 80. And right now it’s up to 99% now. 

Aliw Pablo: What is the difference between that Hershey that was first given that diagnosis to who you are today?

Hershey Cruz: I would say back then, I was just scared. I was constantly scared, I was constantly hiding. I remember telling my husband at one point, “Clint, you know what, I can kind of hear your voice now. But one day, there might be a time where I will not hear your voice anymore.” And I told him that was one of my biggest fear. And it happened. But by the time it happened and I couldn’t hear his voice anymore, sign language started to be more frequent in my life. And CSD started in my local (congregation), and God just did so many things, so many people to just take away that fear, for people just constantly gave me guidance. What became one of the scariest moments of my life became my biggest blessing. You know, you would think that, oh, you know, people would look at me and say, “Oh, I’m so sorry, you lost your hearing.” Maybe at that time when I first lost it, I would probably be okay, yeah, me too. But now, I can’t even regret that I lost my hearing. I’m just so thankful that I did because I met so many wonderful people, so many inspiring people. And at the same time you have that… I have that happiness too in my heart that you know, when people tell me that I’ve helped them in some way overcome theirs (challenges). And that is something that I’m also thankful for if my challenge became someone’s strength, just as the David family was my strength, then everything I had to overcome was worth it.

Aliw Pablo: “Everything I had to overcome was worth it.” she said. You know, I’m just in awe of Hershey’s strength and her positive perspective, despite the challenges that she faces every day. And you know, there is a glimmer in Hershey’s eyes when she speaks. I could feel the inner peace in her like never before and I thought this is what answered prayers look like. Thank you, Hershey, for sharing your story with us. And thank you to her mentors, the David family, and Sister Rose for helping guide her through all these years. It really is a small world, isn’t it? Well, we hope that Hershey’s story brought you peace and hope and dealing with whatever challenges you’re going through today. And be sure to share this episode with a friend who could use Hershey’s story to lift them up. And by the way, stay tuned for growing up CODA Part Three coming soon. You don’t want to miss our season finale. I’m so excited for you guys to hear part three. So be sure to follow us on our Instagram account at Making Changes podcast so you will know when part three drops. Thanks for listening and may your change uplift you.


Available downloads

Raising CODA