Falling Silent

As a voice coach and singer, I pay unusual attention to voices. I cherish the cadences, rhythms, and sounds that I hear in the voices of my family members and friends. Each one is completely unique. Each one lingers in my memory as that person’s inimitable “song.”

Voice is at the heart of our personal relationships. Isn’t it a kind of miracle that your voice has the power to connect your inner world with that of another person?

Our voices create a soundtrack for the lives of those closest to us. The beautiful baritone singing voice of my grandpa Fred is still vivid in my mind’s ear, even though it fell silent in 1996. I recall in detail the sound of the blessing I received from a wise therapist in 1985 and the warm, resonant tone of the teacher who helped me find my voice. I can also conjure the tone of my father’s scathing sarcasm. Whose voices are ringing in your memory right now? How do you think the people around you will hear your voice in their memories?

As I grow older I experience an increasing number of deaths in my immediate and extended circle of friends. With each passage, another voice falls silent in the world. I grieve the loss of hearing that voice on the other end of the phone or in a lingering conversation.

A few weeks ago, another beloved voice fell silent. My friend, Jamie Showkeir, died after a 14-month “adventure” with ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Jamie loved nothing better than to converse. He built his entire personal and professional life around the pursuit of authentic conversations. He and his wife, Maren, even co-authored a book about it. (https://www.bkconnection.com/books/title/authentic-conversations).

How I loved talking with Jamie! In our wide-ranging conversations, he was fully present, curious, funny, daring, and surprising by turns. His laugh shook the rafters and his slightly asymmetrical eyes were right there. Our talks always yielded fresh thoughts and intriguing ideas. He made me (and so many others) feel brilliant and fascinating and appreciated.

After his diagnosis, we talked frankly about his illness and impending death. Those conversations included strength and vulnerability, fear and fearlessness, hilarity and grief….all the good stuff. Many of his conversations with his wife, Maren, were beautifully chronicled in her CaringBridge posts throughout his illness.

The last time I saw him, Maren and I cuddled up close to his wheelchair and had a long, often difficult, conversation about dying. By that time his voice had grown weak. He needed to gulp a breath after every few words. He frankly expressed his fears and doubts. We explored mysteries and told stories. There were tears and giggles and such deep fondness.

Oh, Jamie, I will miss your voice! And I will remember the “song” of it as long as I live.

About Barbara McAfee

Barbara is a voice coach, singer/songwriter, keynote speaker, and author who merges lessons from 12 years in organization development with the transformational power of sound. Her book, Full Voice: The Art & Practice of Vocal Presence (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) was a #1 Amazon bestseller in Business Communication. The book is based on her 25 years as a voice coach, supporting people from many professions in learning how to access the full power and expression of the voice in service to their work and relationships. Barbara’s musical keynotes blend practical content, sophisticated humor, and thought-provoking questions on topics including voice, leadership, and engagement. She was “the band” for Margaret Wheatley’s Women’s Leadership Revival Tour, which visited 15 North American cities. She also appears with authors Parker Palmer and Peter Block. Barbara has produced seven CD's of mostly original music and is founder of the Morning Star Singers, a volunteer hospice choir in the Twin Cities. She lives across the street from the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
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3 Responses to Falling Silent

  1. vnarula says:

    So sweet. My heart goes out to you and his loved ones.


    Vikas Narula Co-Founder at Keyhubs

    763-607-3675 vnarula@keyhubs.com http://www.keyhubs.com

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    Keyhubs 5244 Zenith Ave. South Minneapolis, MN 55410


  2. Ooh Barbara,
    How i love to feel the words you write for they go far beyond time and space.after all we’re never really gone.We are floating in the wind riding on the shirt tails see your beautiful face.
    Know that your are deeply loved in this space, caress it, screem in it, cry in it, laugh in it.
    I adore you Deborah

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