By Joe Harvey
My daughter Mandy always loved music. She was one of those kids who could remember all the lyrics of her favorite songs, and she had a nice singing voice. It wasn’t a surprise when she became a standout vocal talent in high school.
At the graduation ceremony (in 2006), she was recognized as the top female vocalist, and a couple months later she arrived at Colorado State University to study music education.
Sometimes life progresses along just the way you would expect. My daughter knew what she loved doing, was really good at it, and now had the opportunity to pursue it with her whole heart. No one knew how it all would turn out, but she was on her way. A new phase of her life’s journey had begun.
But it didn’t last long.
Before the end of her first semester, the change became obvious. At first she was having problems hearing the lectures. Before long she could not hear most of the piano notes. Our little girl was going deaf. She lost 60 decibels within the first three months. Within eight months it was closer to 110. From September to May, the fabric of her dream continued to unravel. By the end of her first year, the dream had died.
Perhaps the saddest moment came at the end of the second semester. The music students performed their freshman recitals. Mandy stood with her hand on the piano and watched the lips of others to keep in time. I looked across the room and saw Mandy’s voice teacher, a CSU professor and close friend. We were all holding our sadness in place behind supportive smiles: a tender hypocrisy. When her final song was completed, her fellow students offered a deaf applause (shaking upheld hands) and an embrace. That was that! She left Colorado State in mourning, depressed and believing she would never sing again.
Angry, Not Bitter
She could have become bitter, and she certainly was angry—angry with God. Like Job, she wanted to make sense of the situation. Why did God give her such a wonderful gift if she would never be able to use it? Like Job, she needed to stay on the path (live faithfully), without understanding the plan (how God could use her life, albeit differently than what she imagined).
And that is just what happened. In time, Mandy realized that God’s gift, the music, was inside of her. If you check on Wikipedia you will now find an entry for Mandy Harvey, an American deaf jazz singer. After losing her hearing, she became a professional jazz vocalist.
Her website (www.MandyHarveyMusic.com) presents the long list of places where she has performed, including twice at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and the three albums she has created. Her story is intriguing because it is one of despair, doubt, endurance, and eventual joy.
And inside the story you will find the challenge of the book of Job: Will you continue to trust and love God even when there is nothing in it for you?
Joe Harvey serves as associate professor at Johnson University Florida in Kissimmee.