It was a brilliant spring morning, the kind where the air is chilled and smells of snow, but the sun is intense. The inches-thick ice in my driveway was running with water. Measuring each step, I swung open the weathered wooden gate out back to let a little rental car in, trusting that it wouldn’t slide sideways and break my kneecaps. The driver was from Canada, after all, and presumably an expert at driving on ice.
Once inside, our shoes slipped off, we stepped around the little puddles in the entry to the kitchen table where a carafe of coffee was steaming white in the sun that blasted almost audibly in the large old windows of my house. We sniffed as we made small talk, and Dominic (The Canadian) unpacked a metal briefcase of equipment. I realized I was nervous. Since he didn’t drink coffee and I had already had a cup, there was nothing to do but fidget and prattle.
“Will the couch be a good place?” He asked. He already had one arm around the back of a chair, his equipment in the other hand.
Once we were seated, facing each other, our knees almost touching, he explained how to speak into the microphone, and how to answer questions with full sentences. Dominic was interviewing me for the Podcast Everyday Bravery (airing June 20th), which deals with subjects like ‘hanging in, speaking up, dreaming big,’ in the everyday world. He wanted to talk to me about the experience of losing my husband, and everything that followed.
He asked questions that I didn’t expect, and some I really didn’t know how to answer. Good, I thought, to maintain the challenge of thinking in new ways. I wonder how it will turn out…
Months later, as I was packing up the basement to make space for a spare room, I lifted a box of my books that I have lying around waiting to be donated to libraries, when I can find a spare 30 minutes here and there. Thinking back to telling parts of the story into that microphone, a Facebook discussion popped into my head, where a man who knew loss had admitted that he hadn’t read my book because he hated reading. We chuckled. “Well, if I ever record an audiobook, you’ll be the first person I tell!” I had replied. In the gap between thoughts, a voice was asking a question.
Well, why not record an audiobook?
I dropped the box and immediately opened a large plastic tub in the next row of shelves, where I keep semi-important papers in print. After checking my book contract several times and confirming a green light, I sat in the little basement space I had cleared – a perfect space, size and density for recording. I checked to see what applications were on my laptop. Having been an opera singer for decades, I already had everything I needed right there waiting.
Sitting in the dim light from the steps that led to the little room in the basement, I let my gaze go soft, took a breath, and began to tell my story. It was terrible to hear someone talk out loud about how Manny had died. It hurt me to hear that voice actually speaking the story into the universe – the blood, the screaming, the day the earth shattered to dust. I haven’t had the courage to play it back yet, almost as though I’ll discover that my own voice has betrayed me, somehow.
But I will. I only need to focus on the reason I did all of this in the first place. After Manny died, when people I loved would lose someone, they would ask me how the in the hell do we survive it? They would ask if I felt crazy, if my job suffered, if my family was understanding, if people said wild things to me. And I would remember how desperate I, too, had been to find people to talk to, and to find other stories of survival, like mine. I remembered my insatiable search for answers, and how frustrated I felt that the world made me feel as though my grief was a secret that I should cover up. I want to end that kind of feeling for other people. And if making an audiobook means that more people have a chance at feeling slightly less awful, or that I can tell more people that it will change, then I can certainly read my story out loud. It will be different than the film, and different than the podcast and articles and even these posts, because it’s everything I want to tell you, from my heart, through the very human medium of my own voice, vibrating on the breath in my lungs, which feed the blood and the heart of this mother, partner, woman, survivor.