The opera world lost two great voices this year. With everyone else, I mourn the passing of Luciano Pavarotti today, but my real sense of loss arises from the death of Beverly Sills in July. I had the pleasure of meeting her once in Memphis, where I had the foresight to bring along her autobiography, Bubbles, which she autographed, with a brief conversation and her trademark smile.
Tonight we watched a PBS broadcast featuring some of her performances. She was an amazing singer! I sat there in awe as she maneuvered her voice in the most intricate manner. Now, I’ve dabbled in opera myself, singing arias for my own pleasure, singing in a few church dinner theater performances, as well as enjoying couple of runs in the Opera Memphis Chorus, but I have never been able to sing like Beverly Sills, and never will.
When we get past the age of 50, we do feel as if we’re standing at the top of the hourglass with most of the sand on the bottom, and there’s a finality in admitting “I’ll never do this.” I’ll never sing at the Met, I’ll never climb a mountain, I’ll probably never get to Europe or go on a cruise or make a prize-winning quilt. I’ll never learn to play the cello or meet David Suchet or even completely learn PhotoShop. I'll never know what it's like to be really tan, I'll never know what it's like to have perfectly straight hair, I'll never know the feeling of being tall. I'll never be a world expert in anything. Some of this is because I don’t have the inclination, some because I don’t have the talent, some because I'm not blessed with certain features, and some just because I don’t have enough time left to really master anything. Some is just due to the fact that the odds are heavily against an occurrence.
But that’s OK.
Rachel taught me that lesson last year. She had given birth to Charlotte by C-section, her second. There is a renewed interest these days in VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), and a local TV station was doing a special report on these two birth methods. They had first interviewed a lady who had chosen VBAC, and then they came to interview Rachel about having a second C-section. My job was to keep Caroline occupied and out of the range of the interview, but I managed to see most of it. Rachel was articulate in defending her decision for repeat C-section, and then the interviewer asked her if she ever felt like she had “missed out on something” by not ever giving birth naturally. Rachel replied that there were a lot of things she would miss out on life, but that’s just the way it goes.
That’s true for all of us. Even Beverly Sills missed out on having a “normal” family - she had two children, one deaf and the other mentally retarded. We take life as we are given it, and make the best of it.
So my vow is to not concentrate on the things I’ve missed or will miss in my life, and to focus on the wonderful things I have accomplished and been privileged to participate in. I’ve also learned never to say never. I told my friend Audrey that I would never go sea kayaking, and look what happened. I’ve got a few good years left. I may never make the Met, but I can try to make a few quilts. We play our cards, but remember - a lot of the cards are still face down. Life awaits, and I just love surprises!