On a recent Monday afternoon, I had coffee with a woman who I may not ever see again. Her name is Ashley and she is my Life Care Expert and I am her client. At one of my most frequented coffee shops, I sip my soy latte and she sips her Diet Coke, and we talk about my life– where I’ve been; where I’m going.
Ashley is blonde and rather cute and has a nice dress on; looks to be about my age. We could maybe have been friends. After I share my life’s story with a stranger, she mentions that she has thoroughly studied over 1,000 pages of my medical records. (How is it that I have 1,000 pages of medical records?) Ashley pauses, takes a breath, looks at me from across the table in our corner at Java Station, and renders her professional opinion, doing what she came here to do. I wonder how it feels to be her in these moments.
Ashley believes that at some point in the future, I will lose my ability “to function well in a fast-paced business environment”– such as the sunny shop where I currently spend days pouring over my desk and running to and fro, relishing just about every minute. She references the list that she made when I shared about my work, and she runs through each item that I ticked off when I talked about my areas of interest and experience, each one a little sunny spot in my life: Retail, small business, entrepreneurship, creative design, special events, managing people, always striving to bring a little order out of chaos….. This is me.
Ashley pauses again and says, “I know you mentioned that you would like to complete your MBA, but I am concerned that you would not be able to really use it.” She promises to give this matter a lot of thought and to try to come up with some ideas for a career that I could pursue as a person with low vision. She’ll have to get back to me on that one. And she doesn’t think my commute to my office will be practical. I sit back and reflect on my dream of going to grad school. I have been dreading this woman’s words for weeks, but still they have come, and I hear them……Time slows down. I hear the college students at the next table laughing and carrying on. (I used to be so carefree like them.)
I hear these voices in the middle of this coffee shop on a Monday…..But there is another voice. It is stronger than the rest, more present somehow. It is the most captivating sound. My friend Jessie Lee wrote of this voice in her blog:
Jesus, to me, sounds like rain. Sometimes, like thunder in the valley of the Rockies. Like the turning pages of a book. Like the coffee pot when it’s nearly done brewing. If grace could make a sound, that’s what Jesus would sound like.
I wonder if Ashley knows my Jesus. I hope so.
To me, His voice sounds like the breeze rustling in the palm fronds when I’m back on the island with my family, or the wind on the porch at our mountain house when the leaves turn under. Like a piano, perfectly tuned, or a symphony just beginning to play. Like the song of birds in the morning, when it’s still black as night but they find a reason to sing anyway. His voice is soothing like soft waves on the beach and stirring like trees restless before a storm.
Emotion hits me at strange times nowadays. My friend who survived a brain tumor has told me that it gets her too. On this day, I make it back to work and I’m perfectly OK until the last worker leaves the bookstore and I hear their key turn in the lock Then the tears come and won’t by any means stop, so I grab paper and begin to write, because it has become so cathartic for me and the only way I can release the pain sometimes. Even now, in my dark, shadowy office with the single light on, I realize that the voice is there– stronger and more beautiful than any voice I’ve ever heard. So beautiful that I cannot turn away from it. Once you hear it, you can’t un-hear it, even if you wanted to. Grace has a sound. Once you hear it, all other sounds fade away.
It’s so lovely it will make you cry, but it’s the good kind of cry– like when you actually stop for a minute and think how ridiculously-crazy-beautiful and utterly, shockingly breathtaking this life really is after all.
Do you know that voice?