I come from a line of musical people. My mother was a phenomenal alto all my years growing up. She sang in the church choir, and any other time she could. My second memory of singing in front of people was a duet with my mom at Dearborn Heights Baptist Church in Michigan, where I grew up.
I sang lead, mom sang alto. We did an old hymn, and I can still hear it in my head… “I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses…” In two parts, of course. I was all of 8 or 9 years old and I thought I was BIG stuff. It’s one of my favorite memories. I don’t remember being afraid or nervous, though I’m sure I was.
My grandfather (mom’s dad) had a big bass voice and was the song leader and choir director at his church for 58 years! The last few years, he had to sit, and they gave him a huge trophy when he finally retired. Back in the 1940’s, he sang old-time gospel music with the Graham Quartet in western Kentucky on the radio. Momma would get to go with him sometimes, and occasionally he’d let her sing on the radio with them.
I don’t remember a time in my life that doesn’t involve singing, except a couple of years ago. I had cervical spine surgery in July 2012. Of all the many things that “could” happen, none did. EXCEPT that my voice was gone. I could still talk, mind you, but I couldn’t sing. At all. No range, no volume, no quality, nothing.
I grieved. The surgery sort of came out of nowhere, so I didn’t really have time to plan, or think. If I’d known this would be a side effect, I would have sung one more song. But I didn’t know, so I wasn’t worried.
You see, once I’d gotten in front of an audience, I craved it. Besides singing at church, I sang in the car, in talent shows at school and at the Lincoln Jamboree in the county where I went to high school. I was a voice minor in college, and did musical theater. Everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. So for me, not singing was not an option, because, aside from loving it, singing and playing (piano) was my worship. That’s how I expressed myself to God.
After the surgery, I couldn’t talk about it… At least not without crying. My heart hurt. I had spent a lifetime with the ability to open my mouth and make a joyful (and sometimes not so joyful) noise. What would I do now? My doctor was very good and very understanding. He set me up with the most wonderful speech language pathologist, who is now my dear friend and a 2nd daughter to me.
Six months of therapy and many dollars later, I had seen only minor improvement. During those months, I had resolved to beef up my piano skills… If I couldn’t sing, then I would play with all I had. Don’t get me wrong… I love this gift God gave me… I’ve been playing piano since I was seven. (Another story for another post.)
Also during those months, I began waking with music in my head. Familiar and unfamiliar, old and new, music complete with orchestration and voices. I remember the first time it happened, I woke up so excited!!! I had dreamed that I was singing and it was beautiful. When I awakened, there was music in my head… Not my voice, but just like a radio playing. And I thought, “at least I can still sing in my sleep, I can still sing in my spirit.” Again, I cried.
And the songs have been there every day since then. I feel as though I have been given a priceless gift. Even though my voice was gone, my heart could still sing, and it does! I get overwhelmed with emotion when I think about how my spirit praises The Lord while I sleep. How He has given me new songs… Just like the scripture says, “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:3
My dear friend, Karen, told me in the darkest days of grieving all this that God would restore my voice. She reminded me that my gift would be returned to me (Luke 6:38). This month, I had the great privilege and joy to tell her she was right!!!!
Though my range is reduced some, and it’s a little unpredictable at times, I can sing! And I DO! Any chance I get. And the very best part?? The songs in my head keep coming… Every morning. Words cannot express how thankful I am.
OH! And my FIRST memory of singing in front of an audience?? Five years old, at the Christmas party for my dad’s employer. They talked me into standing in front of a microphone and singing “All I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.” I was missing my two front teeth and I promised that I knew all the words… NOT!