I believe in the redeeming power of sound. It can get into the body and alter the shape of the flesh.
I remember the year I wanted to die. Every day, I got up from my bed and searched earnestly for a reason to stay on the planet. Each of my days began with a blasphemous prayer: Dear God, I am ready to go, if You will take me.
After a bitter two-year battle with my ex-husband for custody of my children, I was without them. I had run out of money and out of will. I was a mother forced into learning how to be a woman without her children, and without my children, I believed I was dead.
My body drooped through each day, desperately trying to take the shape of its backbone. I had cut off the world, friends, family and parents. Most who meant well wanted to recount to me the Biblical story of Moses, whose mother unselfishly gave him up to prevent him from being ripped in half. I didn’t blame them for offering me this story as a panacea. What else could they say to me? I lived in a dark place inside my mind where none of them had ever been.
I came home each day, closed my eyes and tried to remember my children’s voices asking for morning pancakes, telling me bedtime stories or bickering for my attention. In passing months, it had grown harder and harder to conjure them. Sound and memory were conspiring against me. Anytime I tried to remember them, images and events in my head jumbled.
I had tried on too many occasions to call them. Always, there was no answer and voicemail was full. Each failed call sunk me deeper into darkness because I couldn’t get to them. In my own mind, I wasn’t their mother; I was their monster. What must they think of me? What were they being told? What did they think on their own? They did not have the sound of my voice either.
I believed that if we continued on this path, we could be headed for the same tragedy as those who have never heard the eloquence of “I love you.” A body withers without the sound of these words. It can’t stand up straight. It atrophies and forgets to bloom.
With the help of my mother, I eventually talked to my children. They were visiting her with their father and his wife. My mother excused herself to go to the store and called me from her cell phone. I allotted her twenty minutes to get back home and then dialed the number to her house.
“Mommy, it’s really you,” my daughter said. Her voice was older, but it still loved me. It rose and fell with happy questions.
The sound of her voice in my ear made me sit up straight. My body extended itself like a stem. And my face, which had held sadness for almost a year, flowered.
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