Julie Andrews burst onto the world scene with a one-of-a-kind voice. Born in 1935 in a London slum, she grew up in poverty. Her parents divorced, but she could sing. Most people have a vocal range of about two octaves. She sang effortlessly over a span of four. She had a very pure, thin voice.
When she was 13, Julie became the youngest soloist ever to perform for the royal family. By 18, she had become a star in London’s West End. At age 29, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Mary Poppins. In 1965 she arrived onscreen as Maria in the Sound of Music. Her rendition of the film’s opening bars, “The hills are alive,” qualifies as one of the great movie moments of all time. Her voice carried her through a diverse, successful career on stage and screen.
Then came 1997. Andrews chose to have surgery to remove noncancerous nodules on her vocal chords. It was disastrous. She awoke to discover that the range and quality of her voice was gone forever. It was devastating because she had lost her identity.
At one point she turned to her daughter and said, “What am I going to do now?” Her daughter answered, “Mom, you’ll simply need to find a new voice.” That she did. Andrews and her daughter have now co-written more than 30 children’s books, many of which have been adapted for screen and stage.
Now 83 years old, Julie reflects on one of the most memorable lines from the Sound of Music. “What I said in the move is true, ‘When God closes a door, He opens a window.’”
What would happen if you lost the use of your signature gift? That one part of you that you define yourself by? Stay at home mom’s children grow up. Career people retire. Athlete’s bodies give out. Sooner or later it is going to happen.
Everything we have slips through our fingers. The day will come when we are too old to do what we used to do. But that doesn’t mean we lose our identity. We will always be deeply loved children of God. Meanwhile, during the changes of life, God will always open a new avenue to express His love in this broken world.
-Rev Dr William Lewis