Friday, March 11, 2022

My Mother's Voice

My mother was known for her voice.

I often say that my mother is the voice of poetry in my mind. I have a special memory of her reading "The Cremation of Sam McGee" by Robert Service. I think it stands out to me because it was clear that the poem was one her favorites. Something about the poem's rolling rhythm, vivid imagery, and dark theme appealed to her. It was lovely and strange, and she made sure that we learned to appreciate it too. To this day, I can't think of that poem without hearing her graceful voice reading it aloud in my mind.

She enjoyed reading lots of things aloud. Dr. Suess, Shel Silverstein, snippets from articles or magazines, eventually even social media posts. One time I gave her a copy of one of my verse novel manuscripts to read, and she sat at my dining room table and started reading it aloud to anyone who could hear. At one point she stopped and looked up at me to make a prediction about one of the characters. There was such a look of motherly pride in her eyes. 

I dedicated my first book to her, of course. She is the reason I'm a writer. A poet.

Mom had a lovely singing voice too. I don't think there was ever a day, when I was with my mother, that I didn't hear her singing at some point. She would often belt out some praise song in the middle of the living room or kitchen with a special gleam in her eye. A gleam that seemed to say, "Why don't you join me?" Music made her happy. And she used music to make other people happy too. She often sang at church, either leading the congregation in worship or performing a special solo. She performed at weddings. And at funerals. Even her own funeral, odd as that sounds. 

Several years ago, Mom decided to do something people had been telling her she should do for a long time: make a professional recording of her singing. She chose five of her favorite gospel songs, and gave a CD with those songs on it to each of her children. I remember listening to it once, and thinking about how lovely her singing voice was, even in her sixties. But I didn't need that CD to hear my mother's voice. I still had my mother. 

I didn't listen to that recording again until her funeral in December, but I've listened to it a few times since. At first, it brought all the pain of losing her to the surface. It was my mother's voice, and I would never hear her singing or reading to me again, not on this side of eternity. 

Now, when I play that CD and hear her singing her heart out, I can't help but feel the joy she put into it. I see that gleam in her eye saying, "Why don't you join me?" and I sing along.

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