“My mom always had the most beautiful voice in the world, but she was so private about it. Never a performer. Meanwhile, as a kid I was ALL performer with very little skill. It took a while to craft my craft and once I did, I was pretty unstoppable and created my own unique sound that has served me well over the years. But If I’m honest, I never stopped longing for that velvet quality in my mother’s voice. I would try to mimic it was but it was solely hers. So rich and perfect.
Ironically or as some sort of sick universal joke, my mother was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. It was such a rare form her doctors had only seen her case in one in five people in Russia who drank a very specific kind of black tea. This was an odd diagnosis and sadder still that it affected the one area on her I always found so precious: her throat.
Hundreds of rounds of chemo and radiation and a major esophagus surgery later, my mama is thankfully still with us. It was such a miracle. And we have always been so grateful for the remission I don’t think either one of us thought about whether singing was still an ability of hers anymore. We just lived life and found new capacities and limitations but also new interests and desires along the way.
However one night I had a concert and was singing one of my mom’s favorite songs “Bag Lady” by Erykah Badu, and much to my surprise, she agreed to come up on stage with me and join in! This was amazing not only because we didn’t really know what her voice sounded like anymore, but because this was as extroverted a move as my mom had ever made in all the time I’d known her. She opened her mouth to sing, and there is was. That same rich and velvety voice only with a new tone to it. A warmer tone. An excited tone. Regardless of the cancer, her voice was still hers, but new and better. Only her bravery and her willingness to dive into the unknown, had changed.
I think about my mother’s journey often now. I’ve been told it’s very brave of me to continue to sing and perform while pregnant. I’ll take some credit for sure as this is hard! My little one is in there slowly crushing my lungs and digestive system. I have to work that much harder to take a real breath which means I have to work that much harder to hit the right note. In my first and into second trimester, I toured 30 shows in a row. 30 shows while exhausted and deficient. 30 shows with swollen feet and acid reflux. And those were the easy times! I’m just entering my third trimester now and will perform my final and most difficult show this weekend. But I know I can do it because of my mother. Because when life happens, and things change and get hard, we naturally remove the layers of expectations that have haunted us our whole lives and just do what kids do: enjoy ourselves. Try it out. Try it out for the first time or try it again in a brand new way.
My mother’s moment on stage with me was a shining example of that and a representation of embracing exactly where you are and not clinging to what you were. I don’t have to sound like or move like I used to. I want to sound like me now. Me with my mother’s story inside my heart, and my first child inside my belly. And we all carry each other. My mother carried me, I carry my baby, and I carry my mother. In total newness and bravery, in total love and acceptance, and most perfectly in music.”
Written by Myra Flynn
Published by PharMeDoc