The woman’s voice rises. The depth of her soprano strains enrobe the cathedral with a sacred richness. Her raven hair shimmers with the colorful rays peaking through the stained-glass behind her. Face turned upward; her song is an offering to the One she loves, the God who created her to sing.
The verses come to an end. Slowly she looks out to the audience before her, watching as the cathedral fades from her view; a view from the distant past of her mind’s eye. Reality materializes, revealing the small room that’s become her home. She allows herself to be led to her bed where she can sit safely, without fear of falling and injury.
The soloist is my mother. From childhood, she desired to follow in her Nonna’s footsteps. Like her three older sisters, she too wanted to be an opera singer, just like her Italian grandmother. Unlike my great-grandmother, my mother never graced the stage of an opera house. Her earliest performances were as a child at her church in the Philippines, followed by those given at the Officer’s Club at Clark Air Force Base following the allied troops’ victory over the Japanese during World War II. Most of her singing has been in the church, back in the Philippines and here in the US, where she’s lived since her early twenties. While studying opera and fine arts in college, she worked hard to train her voice.
Music has been an integral part of who she is. Even now, music carries her. It enriches her life. Some of the words are now obscured, but the melodies are still clear. Schubert’s Ave Maria comes naturally to her, just like the Panis Angelicus. Every now and then, a song from the forties pops out. Workers that help with her care often tell me how much she loves to sing. “What a beautiful voice she has,” they say. “Did she always sing?”
The simple answer is yes. She was created to sing. It’s in her nature – a nature given to her by God. So, she sings – even when words fail. She makes her offering back to the God that loves her. One day, the melodies may elude her, just as the words do now. Then, laughter will be her song. And after the laughter, in her inner-most being, she’ll be singing sacred arias to the One that can hear her beautiful heart’s song.