I am sitting here in bed with shivers going down my spine. Why? Well, I have a voice singing in my head, my Mother’s voice. Singing the same song, so beautifully, over and over. Her high notes make the hairs on my head stand up – so crystal clear despite the background crackles on the recording.
I don’t have all of the details about this story, but am writing what I do know. When my Mum was young, she had singing lessons to help develop her wonderful voice. She also entered a number of competitions and once came second to the now famous Dame Janet Baker. When I was a child, and as I grew up, her singing was a background to my life. She sang all day at home and in the chapel that we went to each Sunday. When we moved house, I remember people looking over their shoulder in amazement as her voice soared over the congregation in our new church. She carried on singing in choirs and at events well into old age.
Anyway, I can vaguely remember her telling me that she had been able to have a recording done when she was young, with her father, my grandfather, playing the accompaniment. She was given a vinyl 78 record of this. I am not sure how old she was, but think she must have been in her late teens or early twenties (I will correct this if any family members tell me the right age).
When my Mother died, in 2012, we found the old record and tried to play it, but it was very damaged and virtually unlistenable due to the loud crackles. Now, my nephew has been able to mostly clean up the digital version and kindly sent me copies of both sides of the record on Saturday.
I was shaking as I played each file. It was as if I had been transported to my early childhood as I listened to my Mother’s young voice again and my Grandfather’s piano playing. It is quite indescribable and I am really struggling to express my feelings. Perhaps the poem below, will give you an idea of what this means to me – I wrote it to read out at her funeral:
Without Your Song
Your glorious voice that threaded through my childhood is silenced forever.
But I can still hear you in my head
singing those old songs,
which I will never forget.
When you sang somewhere new your voice soared above all others.
People would turn to look,
shivers running down spines
at the sweet beauty of your gift.
Memories of childhood flicker like a filmstrip through my mind:
Soapy Joe, crisp new dresses,
shrimping nets and rockpool days,
floating on crystal notes.
Holding your hand in the last days and listening to your breathing,
I thought about happy times,
how you had loved us all,
and smiled through grateful tears.
The last thing you said to me was “I love you, don’t be sad”.
Well I am sad, but also joyful
to think how fortunate I have been
with you as my mother.
Written by me and read out at Mum’s Funeral in Peterborough and Service in Clevedon, November 2012.