When we truly love someone, it seems as though so much of the identity we come to know and appreciate is embedded in his or her voice. It is as though the tone, richness and expression become the auditory DNA of the one we hold so dear.
My mother had a child’s voice. It was soft, lilting and filled with pleasant expression. She would giggle quietly, comfort soothingly and ever-so-rarely reprimand, but always very kindly. When she was passionate about something, her soft voice had a little more boldness. When she picked up an infant, her voice became that of a cherub who had stumbled upon a playmate. In her last days on earth she was unable to speak. While her expressive eyes told me everything I needed to know, for days before she breathed her last, labored sigh, I had been missing the whole, the persona, the friend, whose voice could no longer reach me.
I never had any children, but I have had many nieces and nephews, each one with an instantly recognizable voice. In one family I have come to know by the composite of sounds emanating from their little mouths, a maternal deep-thinker; a serious planner; a care-free people-lover; a shy giant; an artistic life-searcher; a kind-hearted social butterfly; a restless-minded artist; a loving, passionate leader; and a saint-souled scholar. Although they are related with some very similar traits, each one owns a distinct voice personality. I remember with tender humor, how when each was an infant, I could tell from the sound of their unique little voices, when they were happy, sad, hungry, tired or faking a cry. If I had by some misfortune come to lose the use of my eyes, I would know my cherished ones, just by the sound of their voices.
And then, there was my father’s voice. Oh, what color of personality was in that one voice. His was a voice of power: power to incite; power to calm down; power to cheer up; power to impart faith; power to heal. His was a human voice with a supernatural amplifier. His voice shattered the dark glass of the enemy’s fortress; and trumpeted a militant onrush against the enemy. That very same voice of power could be expertly used to calm a daughter’s raging seas with one question, “How’s my little girl?” Oh, to hear that living, healing voice once more and sense the nearness of Papa.
In Millay’s poem “Elegy,” she mourns the loss of a loved one, but mostly for the characteristic voice that was the life and joy of her cherished friend. The throat that was the human vessel for her beloved’s voice she called an “ivory box,” which, when broken, would keep the “golden bird,” (perhaps referring to a canary) from ever singing or speaking again. She was attempting to describe a part of the sting of death, when life turns dark, silent and empty.
With all the world’s sadness and loss, there remains yet another Voice, one which will never grow silent because it emanates from The One who conquered death. ‘Tis the One Voice without which I could not continue living. This voice doesn’t come washing over the eardrum. His is a softer voice with a louder presence. The gentleness, love and directness that distinguish that voice, bring His entire person near and He is instantly recognizable. The voice of my Great Shepherd leads me in pastures green and by waters calm. No stranger or villain could dissuade me, because there is no masking the pureness of life emanating from His loving voice.
I have heard it said scientists believe that every sound ever uttered is traveling very quickly through the remote regions of the galaxies. Words and sounds are eternal, it seems. But, until there is some type of retrieval system discovered, or until the day when we are reunited with our loved ones and their cherished voices, we must learn to live with the reality that here on earth, at least, we will never again hear the voices of those we had for a lifetime.
For me, at this stage in my life, I have come to value that One Voice far above anything or anyone else’s. No ivory box could contain it; and a golden bird, though pretty in sound, cannot come close to describing its beauty. His voice rings with the authority of the universe. His voice brings worlds into existence and runs evil out of town. His is the voice of many waters with the power to burst apart chains of oppression and the force to deep-clean everything it contacts. That Voice is more than a collection of sounds and vibrations; that Voice is Life Itself; the One that never leaves, never dies, and is never, never silenced.