My hands shake slightly as I sit down in front of his desk; scan the family photos, medical awards and certificates of degrees lining the walls behind the wingback chair. I pull the voice recorder from my computer bag. It is one of my first interviews as a feature writer with the Anglican Mission.
Even though I serve on a missions board with John, share meals around his kitchen table, laugh with his wife over birthday lunches and carry my sick children into the waiting room at his pediatric clinic, I still want to get things right. To honor a man who serves his community like Jesus walking barefoot to my house.
We talk for an hour.
He speaks passionate vision about saving lives in Rwanda, by distributing mosquito nets one house at a time. The same way he saves the lost and least in his own back yard, pushing his stethoscope on the chests of the sick in silent prayer, one child at a time.
The interview follows a discussion about how his body responds to the medicine he takes for the cancer. The way he enjoys this window of time with his wife, how he is putting things in order for her, if the worst happens.
He died a few months later. The whole town held their breath.
The week he passes, H and I look out of the plate glass window on the twenty-something floor of a hotel hundreds of miles from grief at a conference. A conference where I plan to conduct several interviews like the one I had with John. In preparation, I clear my voice recorder. Then I remember. My heart sinks when I realize I just erased the voice of the dead.
A few weeks later, my hips slide onto the couch in John’s living room. I sit across from his wife and the cat over a steamy cup of tea. She remarks how she misses talking to John. How she wishes she had thought to record his voice before he died.
I’m not sure if I have ever regretted doing something more than the moment I pushed erase on that recorder.
It still haunts me.
Sometimes it feels as though someone pushed the erase button on my voice. Among the shuffle of piled laundry, grocery lists and the whisper of guilt over time that slips like sand through my fingers to write, the voice disappears. It floats in empty boat adrift on rocking waves of to-do lists from last week.
Then it returns like an unexpected visitor, over the swirl of spatula through eggs and cheese in the early morning hours, among the plastic baggies of potato chips and peanut butter sandwiches. When no one can hear over the noise of the electric toothbrush and Matt Lauer, and time spills like a leaky faucet.
And I stand cupping silver challis, repeat holy words to the least and lost. The ones that look like me, in their best Sunday high heels and lipstick. This is the blood of Christ shed for you, the blood of Christ shed for you. And the more I say it, the more I let go of having a voice at all.
My phone reminds flashing green dot, of voice mails held long. Three voices that stay recorded on my phone permanently for years now to remember in John’s honor. That life is fleeting and voice is a gift and when it escapes mute like a prisoner held captive by fear, it returns in the remembering. Of heads bowed low, hearts flayed open, and words whispered true, the blood of Christ shed for you.
Joining Ann to declare His faithfulness in a list of thanks:
For last minute dinner and conversation with a friend far away from home.
Meeting a blogger friend in real life, and a little picture to remember.
Standing next to my husband to serve communion together for the first time.
Late night movies and sleep overs, for them.
A beautiful sunny day on the beach and a little sun kiss on the skin – in March!