I am a listener rather than a talker.
I don't mean to say that I am skilled in listening, because I'm still working on that. But I do prefer to listen rather than talk and I am blessed to have a family and friends that enjoy talking. When any one of them falls suddenly silent and turns to me, saying, "You're quiet, what's going on in your life?" I suddenly feel like a bit of a dud, as though they got short changed if they want sparkling conversation from me!
Those whom God has placed in my intimate circle, do not disappoint in conversation however, and many a time during a phone call, I find myself reaching for a notepad and pen, to record a funny or witty sentence, or a story.
And I sometimes feel as though I carry within me echoes of voices long gone, through stories I have listened to. I find that very cool; that in story, a voice lives on.
This morning, being Sunday, with a little less rush than the usual morning sprint, I made an egg for breakfast. As I was washing the dishes afterwards I picked up the fork from the hot soapy water and "heard," "Don't forget to wash between the tines Aggie."
Now "Aggie," was my "Aunt" Agnes MacDonald, who died in her early 90's about twenty years ago. The voice, was that of her mother, who died in the 1930's when Agnes was in Africa as a missionary. I remember her photograph in Aunt Agnes's flat, a plump woman with hair drawn back in a bun, surrounded by her four children, a boy in a stiff starched collar and three girls with long hair, bedecked with large puffed bows.
I loved listening to Aunt Agnes's stories and this was one of them, how her Scottish mother would admonish her to wash a fork.
She also told me how on freezing cold mornings in their home in Aurora, where her father worked on the railroad, her mother would call up from the kitchen, "Come down and dress by the fire Aggie," and Agnes the child would scamper down the stairs to the mother she loved dearly, and the deliciously warm kitchen.
These memories would have been 70 or 80 years old when I heard them.
As well, she had had a close tie of friendship with Alice Belle Garrigus, an American woman missionary who worked in Newfoundland from 1910, to her death in 1949.
After Aunt Agnes caught malaria in the Congo, and almost died, she had to return to Canada, so she became a sort of itinerant evangelist, going to Western Canada, and later Newfoundland, where she met Miss Garrigus, who became a mentor and mother figure to her.
Later, after she left Newfoundland, Aunt Agnes would go back to visit her friend, and Miss Garrigus kept a drawer into which she would put little things for Agnes, throughout the intervening months. When Agnes arrived, she would motion to the drawer and say, "Everything in there is for you."
That I have stored the voice of Alice Garrigus, even in that one sentence, is, I think, a precious thing.
Aunt Agnes carried on the tradition of little gifts in our friendship. When I would go to her apartment for breakfast, I would first buy the ingredients and then cook for us both on Monday mornings in the 1970's. The tiny table in her kitchen would be set with two places, and beside mine would often be a little trinket, an old but pretty corsage, or some other little gift that she thought would delight me.
I love that in the Bible, we can listen in on voices of two thousand years ago or more.
One of my favourite Bible conversations is that between Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. I find it full of humour and irony, since it concerns a conversation about the crucifixion.
I wonder if my voice will live on in a story passed down through generations, as others voices have. If an instruction on how to wash a fork is not forgotten, it is more than possible I suppose! That thought is enough to inspire me to greater circumspection. :)
P.S. In researching a little I found that Alice Garrigus wrote her story in a book, Walking in the King's Highway, which can be found online by clicking the link.