The Gift

Dear Lindy~ I thought of your Mom yesterday. A song came on the radio.

You know that many years ago, she was a business mentor to me. I was in my early 20’s and she was the senior financial person in the agency where I worked. But more than that, she was the senior woman in the organization. She had clout. She made things happen.

I was lucky that she liked me. She was a huge help to me. We went together one evening to an Agency party on the Centre Island. Walking from the Ferry I started to hum a Springsteen song. That was the first time your Mom heard me sing. She made me start at the beginning. And sing louder. I was really embarrassed and didn’t want to. She was a hard person to say “no” too. I bet you’ve heard that before! Sort of a fist in a velvet glove. I sang. It didn’t sound half bad.

She invited me to  come to your house in the Beach. Your Dad would play the guitar and I would sing. The song that I heard on the radio yesterday that reminded me of her was “Daniel” by Elton John. That was the first song that I ever sang with him playing the guitar. It was scary and thrilling. microphone_on_stage_a3d71 After that, she would make me sing all the time. Even after we had both moved on to other jobs, she would call me from work and get me to sing to her. More than once, it was on the speaker phone and she had others there. She loved opera and there was a part of an opera that I had stuck in my head. I called her and sang it to her (in the middle of a meeting!) and she was able to identify it. So cool.

It was many years later that I got a call from Inez that your Mom was sick. Real sick. She was in Sunnybrook and had asked for me to come down and sing some Springsteen to her. Inez and I met up the next day and we visited your Mom. By then, she was hardly conscious. I sat by her bed and sang. I came back down 3 or 4 more times to sing to her. Who knows if she was able to hear me by then. Maybe if she couldn’t hear the words she could feel the feelings behind them. At first I was so shy to sing, but each time I became braver. The nurses would step in, and people visiting, to listen and I wouldn’t stop.

The last time I came down, I was walking down the hall towards her room and your Dad was being wheeled by on a stretcher. He was screaming. As he passed me, he grabbed my hand and screamed at me; ‘Leslie! Stay with Bonnie. Please! Stay with Bonnie!”. He was panic struck. I said I would, and walked into your Mom’s room. Your Aunt Sue was with your Mom and it took me a moment to realize that she was gone.

After I said goodbye to her, I went and found your Dad downstairs where they were trying to calm him down. No matter how clear it had been that she wasn’t going to make it, the shock of her actual death was almost too much for him to bear. He loved her so.

Your Grandmother asked me to sing at the funeral. I spent hours learning the song that they had chosen – “How Great Thou Art”. The day before the funeral, I woke up with almost total laryngitis. I was so disappointed and felt like I was letting her down. When I called your Grandmother and croaked out that I couldn’t talk (much less sing) she asked if there was anything that she could do to help me. This, on the weekend that she was burying her daughter. Such kindness.

My voice came back after several days and I began to sing more often. I had sung as a child, in a school choir that actually made a Christmas album, and with the women in my family around the piano. We could all sing. We sang in the car for hours on long road trips. Somehow, when I got to high school my voice was silenced. It wasn’t that I was shy – on the contrary I was loud and a smart ass. Yet the idea of singing in front of people, either in the choir, in the musicals or even in casual settings seemed impossible. Years later, your Mom unlocked that part of me.

Now I sing every day. I take music lessons with a wonderful teacher to learn different harmonies and play a new instrument. I have sung at many weddings, and at many funerals. My own choir has done more than 100 shows at old folks homes, and I walk the halls of the hospital with a couple of other singers whenever we can. IMG_4526 My husband, son and daughter play the guitar and we all sing, as a family and with friends who come over with their guitars or to play the piano. It is truly one of the real joys in my life and your Mom gave me that.

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