The Day I Couldn’t Sing
On Friday, January 6th I had the honor of being with my friends Laura, Karen, and Brenda when their mother Wanda passed away. Wanda was an honest, simple, and kind woman. My children called her Grandma Wanda. Losing her battle to cancer was the result of a long hard fight. She is greatly missed.
After Wanda’s passing the family asked me to sing at her funeral. There was not a question as to my willingness. I was ready. The song was even one of my favorites “Here I am, Lord” by Dan Schulte.
As the funeral approached, my nerves grew. My sadness seemed to have a hold on my voice. The day of Wanda’s funeral I prayed for grace and the ability to sing in a way that was worthy of honoring Wanda’s life.
It was a cold, windy day. The funeral home did not have an organist to accompany me so I found the music online. The funeral director and I checked and double checked that it was the correct music. As the funeral service began, I followed the ministers and other vocalist into the funeral salon. We were seated next to Wanda’s coffin.
It was heartbreaking to see the sadness on my friends’ faces and knowing that Miss Wanda was lying there next to me. The other vocalist sang the opening song beautifully. The opening prayer was humble and reverent.
It was my turn to sing. As I took my place at the microphone, I could hear the melody in my heart but not in my ears. Slowly the music began to filter in through the speakers. The speakers were overhead, projecting outward, and away from me. I leaned forward and took a deep breath. Too deep. I missed the sound of my opening note. I quickly caught up but my voice was shaky and a bit high.
The winds blowing outside shook the windows and the WiFi antenna. The music stopped. I sang a few words but could not find the melody in my ears or my heart. It was as if the sadness and wind had blown me too far off my musical course. I could not sing.
I apologized. The music buffered and restarted at a different spot. I waited for the chorus and I sang again shakier than ever and without my heart in the song. As I made it to the last verse, my friend smiled at me and nodded. She knew I was doing my best and how hard it was to be there. The music cut out again briefly but I sang that last verse and closing chorus to the best of my ability, sat down, and cried.
My tears were not from embarrassment but from shame. How could I let Wanda’s family down? How could I let Wanda down? I just couldn’t sing.
After the service my husband found me in the back room of the funeral home. We walked in silence to our car and fell in procession with the others to the cemetery. He squeezed my hand and told me he loved me. “You sounded beautiful. They were all glad you were there for them,” he said.
I couldn’t talk.
After the graveside service, we made our way into the church hall for the bereavement dinner. Everyone seemed relieved to be out of the wind and in warm place to comfort one another.
My seat at the meal was next to my friend Laura. I hugged her and she hugged me. I said, “I’m so sorry.” Laura told me not to apologize. She was grateful for my love and friendship and especially that I was there that day.
Since Wanda’s funeral I have had a hard time singing, especially at mass, but always give it my best. Last Sunday Laura and I spent some time together shopping, talking, and having lunch. The day was warm and sunny so we chose to sit outside on the restaurant’s patio. As we finished our meal, a bright blue bird found its way near our table. It seemed happy to see us.
Wanda loved birds. At that moment I felt like Wanda has sent that blue bird to us. He was our sign that everything was going to be okay. After whistling a few chirps, the blue bird flew away. Laura and I were reassured by Wanda’s presence with us.
After I dropped Laura off at her home, my heart felt lighter. I hummed a few notes and then I sang “Here I am, Lord.” I sang for Wanda, her family, and myself. I sang for that blue bird and I sang for that cold, windy day. I sang for the pleasure of knowing what it was to love someone. I sang for the power of healing after someone has left us. I sang.
If you find yourself in a situation where you just can’t sing (or talk, or walk, or function), it’s okay. Healing will find you when you open your heart to it. Continue to open yourself to those around you and let signs of new life make an impact on your progress. Sing when you are ready.
By: Melanie A. Peters
P.S. We love you, Miss Wanda!