Friday, July 9, 2010

The singer

Karen is a women I met one night in a bar.

It was Karen's 50th birthday.

A lot of people I know don't celebrate birthdays. But every birthday has been special for Karen, since she was diagnosed with breast cancer nearly three years ago. She's a breast cancer 'survivor,' she told me.

Karen was looking every bit the part of birthday girl in a zebra print halter dress when we met.

While she was waiting for her turn at the karaoke mic, she bore to me the tragedies of her life.

Before she was diagnosed with cancer, her brother and father had also been diagnosed. Her father died when she started chemotherapy. Her son, just a teenager, also had problems: spinal muscular atrophy.

"You have to have faith," she told me with conviction.

It was hard to imagine her sick and undergoing the draining chemotherapy treatments as she stood before me, vibrating with life. Her skin was sun-bronzed and blue eyes twinkling.

We continued to talk: I had no where to go and she had things to say.

She told me she liked singing -- always has.

Afraid to seem impolite for not contributing to the conversation, I finally spoke.

"I do too," I told her, "Just preferably in my shower."

She laughed, sending her wavy chin-length hair bouncing with cartoonish liveliness.

I was pretty sure Karen was of the opinion everyone should karaoke — especially those who had never done it before.

She's done it many times.

"And sung in weddings," she said.

Her voice is her gift, she told me. Her God-given gift. In that it was a gift from God, she felt duty-bound to share it.

I tried to imagine such a thought coming from any place other than the tummy of a hungry ego — but she seemed genuine.

I write for a living, which is, theoretically speaking, my "God given gift" but I certainly don't feel duty-bound to share it; or that it would be a disservice to mankind if I did not write articles about school board meetings and karaoke competitions.

"You never know when you are going to do something that could touch another person," she told me. "You could inspire people."