My Mother died on Monday, August 17, 2009, at 12:35 p.m.
For the preceding week, I sang almost every Rodgers & Hammerstein show tune to her in her hospice room at the Lutheran Home in Southbury, CT accompanied by my iPod played through a little iHome speaker. In fact, when the priest came to "administer the benediction" (euphemism for last rites or, as we Catholic school kids of-a-certain-age may recall Extreme Unction), I was in the middle of singing "Shall We Dance" from the King & I.
After she died, I was driven by making arrangements and notifying everyone . . . call after call after call. I'm an only child, so there was no one to whom I could "delegate" this task. "Keep it together," I kept telling myself to get through another call or another interaction without falling apart. I'm good at that . . . the soldiering on thing. My Mom was, too.
I was amazed at how little I actually sobbed. I'm still not sure whether I consciously suppressed it because I couldn't bear to hear the sound of my own grief or that it somehow made my Mom's death all the more real or whether the automatic coping skill of numbness was kicking in. I do know that whenever I've held back crying throughout my life, I get a terrible sore throat.
By the day of my Mom's second funeral mass on Saturday, I was getting hoarse and starting to lose my voice. By Sunday, only little wisps of sound came out. I was completely "choked up."
In her book You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay says that "[t]he energy center in the throat . . . is the place in the body where change takes place. When we are resisting change or are in the middle of change or are trying to change, we often have a lot of activity in our throats." When one has a sore throat, it may reflect "[f]eeling unable to express the self." We even say that flower beds get choked by weeds.
I'd used my voice to soothe and comfort my Mom that last week and to sing the soundtrack of our life together, which had been so much about music. A particular song always triggers a very specific memory. Then I used my voice to carry out the funeral arrangements as she'd taught me (despite my persistent refusal to listen), to tell friends and family.
This voicelessness persisted for nearly a week until it became so annoying, physically painful and such a continual reminder of the cause, that I felt I had to do something. Unfortunately, the only thing to do was to "let it out" and cry. That scared the bejesus out of me. I could get on with it and bawl or continue sounding like a pathetic Brenda Vaccaro (there's got to be someone else for that analogy already!).
I was going to have to deal with it one way or the other. Thus, I "sounded my barbaric yawp" and have begun to speak. Like this whole process, my voice these days is sometimes fine (like when I recount something about my Mom or am loving the life she gave me) and sometimes wobbly.
There's nothing else to say.
UPDATE: I had my singing lesson last night with the brilliant Jane Kennedy I told her about my experiences lately with my quavering, unreliable voice. She lovingly explained the cause and effect upon the vocal chords. She reminded me of the expression, "having a lump in your throat."
What I most wanted to share with regard to the discussion in this original posting about change and the effect on the throat/voice is that, after we began our warm up last night, my vocal range has expanded since my last lesson (taken before my Mom died) . . . My three octave range is now an octave and a third! I suppose with change also comes expansion if we allow it and a whole new voice begins to emerge.