My almost 14-year old granddaughter has had her tonsils removed. She is terribly uncomfortable physically; swallowing anything, even pain meds, is murder. Equally agonizing is her uncertainty about the wellbeing of her voice, for musical theater has become her second home. In the last eight months, she has sung the title role in Annie, played a precocious young girl in a new musical that’s being developed (maybe for Broadway), and accepted a lead role in another musical this coming fall. Knowing these things about her, someone on the medical team told her, just prior to the surgery, that they would use the smallest possible breathing tube so as to minimize the risk of damaging her vocal cords. Those words were meant to be reassuring, but the implication was not lost on her: There is a chance that her voice will be adversely affected.
Naturally she is worried, really worried, and I feel helpless. I can crush ice to soothe her throat and make smoothies to insure that she takes in some nutrition. But what about her fearful heart? What balm do I have for that? “This is my life, Gran,” she says, and she means it. “What can I do if I can’t sing?”
I believe that Lucy and her voice are firmly in God’s hands. Yet even as I affirm that, I do not know what it means, not with any specificity, certainly not with regard to what will happen with her voice. Sometimes life demands hard things of people, and trusting God doesn’t mean we get what we want.
And so I tell her the truth: That I understand and respect her fear. And that, although I can’t guarantee it, I’m pretty sure that her voice will be fine, that it already sounds okay. I don’t mention God. Instead, I try to appeal to her imaginative and playful side by suggesting that if she can no longer sing, maybe she can become an astronaut and be the first person to go to Mars. Or become a scientist and discover a way to refrigerate the North and South Poles to save the icebergs. Or tap into her creativity to write the songs for her own Broadway shows.
She smiles, sort of. “How about some more crushed ice?” I ask, and she nods. “And another game of Scrabble?” She nods to that, too. I’m pretty sure she knows I’m trying to distract her—and she lets me.
When I return from the kitchen with the ice and a spoon, she is opening the Scrabble box and softly humming “Do Re Mi” from The Sound of Music. “That doesn’t hurt your throat?” I ask. She shakes her head. No, not if she doesn’t hum too loud. As we turn over the Scrabble tiles, she continues to hum. I join in, softly humming the harmony.
I think our humming is a prayer.