It’s easy to look back over years as a series of big events–the day I was born, schools I attended, graduations, marriage, jobs held, the birthdays of my children… These are the visible rings around my tree, the important details in a brief biography of my life.
But when I close my eyes and let my thoughts steep like a good, strong cup of early morning tea, I hear a thousand voices whispering past conversations. Words. Music. Beginning with the sweet, angelic voice of my beautiful Mother. I see her in my memory, watching over me as a child. I hear her singing by moonlight, calming my fears. Planting seeds in my heart of what it means to lay down your life as a living sacrifice. I stumbled my way through the dark forest of my bedroom every night of my childhood to make it to the safe castle of her song.
I remember the rich, coffee-colored voice of my father. His laughter. The honest, quick step. How it felt to be a girl, to sit beside him on the couch and watch a movie late at night until I could no longer fight sleep and didn’t want to anyway. And that incredible moment of surrender and falling… How many mornings did I find myself tucked snugly in warm bed with no memory of his strong arms lifting and carrying me up the stairs, laying me gently down, arranging my blankets, and blessing me with his gently-spoken prayer of goodnight…
I hear the voices of my brothers and sisters. Fighting, laughing, crying, whispering, singing, yelling. “Here I come, ready or not!” I hear our footsteps running circles through the house, wearing grooves into the floor.
The sound of my first guitar, strummed in the church parking lot–a gift from my oldest sister for no special occasion. The songs we used to sing, sitting around the living room. Mama at the piano, Daddy whistling as he walked through the house with a handful of freshly cut flowers from the garden.
I remember the music of my sisters’ voices–all of them, on walks around the block, or to the rhythm of wheels on pavement as we drove back and forth to school and church. I remember sitting on my sister’s bed and watching her draw, the patient way she showed me how to make arms with hands and fingers. I remember conversations in dark cars with my brothers, each of them. On the way home from prayer meetings and movie theaters. I remember my sister’s face in the dark where we shared a room. I remember the day she left for college. I remember how I sobbed like a baby the day I sang at her wedding.
I am struck by the memory of the incomparable voice of my husband-to-be. The day I was driving to school, listening to him sing on my car stereo, and love hit me like a car crash.
There were all the people who hung out in the art building. Professors, friends, the words of writers and poets, the sound of music. Then there were friends who were in love, friends who were married, friends with children, friends who bake bread, friends who write… There were all those late-night conversations standing in parking lots, sitting over potlucks, hanging out after shows, driving on highways, sharing pots of tea.
And volumes could be written about the music of voices of children. I am continually changed by their song that is moving through me.
Looking back over my life, I am amazed at how we have found our way here. There were so many people. They stand in my memory like illuminated shadows. I remember their words. The threads of living conversation that have woven themselves into the very fabric of the life we are now wearing as a garment. People who spoke life into my soul. People who unknowingly changed my life by telling me stories about their own. People who showed me truth by their examples. Who gave me hope that marriage can be better than worse. Who showed me that children are a blessing, not a curse. Who gave me courage to seek a life of vision for myself and my family.
I stand on these words. I sleep under them like a blanket. I build my house on them. I drink them down in cups of tea. I speak them. I write them. On nights like these, I wrap myself up in them and cry like a baby.
Life is such a gift. There were so many people. And there are so many people. And the intersection of our lives, our words, our worlds…these are the details that make our stories worth telling.