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.