Today marks the first anniversary of Angela's death. I found this piece that I wrote about her back in 2002:
At a Community Night a year or so ago, we managed to get a hold of a karaoke machine. We could play any song we wanted on this giant stereo, either on tape or CD, and it would play the instrumental part of the song, but mute the vocals. We plugged a professional looking microphone in to the back of the machine and sang the vocals ourselves. It was a great evening, and we discovered hidden talents in many of our community members!
But none so astounding as Angela. Angela had arrived in the community a couple of years before, having lived a part f her life in a very difficult situation with her mom, and the past few years in a residential facility in another area of Nova Scotia. She came shy, timid, and reluctant to talk to anyone she hadn’t lived with for a while. She seemed unable to call anyone by name, that being too substantial an expression of connection, even intimacy, with another person. She rarely answered questions spontaneously, but rather waited to be given clues as to the desired answer. Only then would she take the risk of offering her view, even on something as simple as to whether or not she was having a good day. Few people had heard Angela speak more that a few simple words, although we all knew that she understood everything we said, and that she was very capable of using language to the full.
Angela also seemed very self-conscious of her big, clunky, motorized wheelchair, which she depended on so heavily for her independence. Without it, she couldn’t move more than a finger, yet she seemed almost resentful of its presence in her life. It both offered her incredible freedom, but also served to inhibit her even more.
And, so, on that night in the Lodge with the karaoke machine, everyone’s curiosity was piqued as Angela motored up toward the microphone. As assistant in her house cued up a CD, and Angela tentatively cleared her throat in preparation. From the stereo speakers came the swell of the orchestra, and right on cue, Angela opened her mouth and began to sing. And not just “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, either. No, Angela’s debut was to the powerful Celine Dion masterpiece “My Heart Will Go On”, from the soundtrack of the movie “Titanic”. As her voice got louder and she reached to hit the high notes with style and class, jaws were dropping open all over Lodge. This woman could sing! By the time her voice faded on the ending notes of the song, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. We had all witnessed Angela’s moment of transformation, and it seemed that we were transformed as well.