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Topic: Accent( 02/21/13)
By Fiona Stevenson
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Daisy was not her name; rather it was her ‘aka’ or alias. She admitted to her name only when legally required to do so, which was not surprising in that her full name was Rosamund Magdalena Hortense Eloise Alfrieda del Cortez. She did not look like any of these names, she looked like a Daisy, cheerful and round and full of sunshine. Perhaps that was one reason why her peculiar talent was something of a surprise.
Neither did her husband live up to his given name: Roberto Carlos Del Cortez. He was tall and thin to the point of emaciation; suave, with dark, smoky eyes, and he spoke a deep-throated Queen’s English. Daisy introduced him as Hugh, and when one of the senior staff members who had met him professionally asked her why she called him Hugh she replied, “It’s short for Hey You!”
They came to our community in the middle years of life. Hugh was an ear, nose and throat specialist, with an added interest in speech therapy. Daisy was a ‘joiner,’ becoming involved in various clubs and groups. Amanda brought her to the Information Centre where she fitted right in. We found her to be a quick learner and a ready worker. Moreover, she brought her own peculiar talent to brighten our days.
Daisy spoke seven languages fluently. For each language she had a different persona. She lived the language of her choice, bringing her persona of the day, speaking English with the accent of the language she portrayed. At first it was a little confusing, but the novelty wore off and we accepted, even expected, a different Daisy each time that she came. She delighted visitors who guessed her origins from her accents, but she laughed, shaking her head and remaining mysterious.
Her ready sympathy gathered people to her. Babies and children, tired parents seeking rest, old people and young, she had a rapport with them all. It came, I think, from her almost instinctive need to serve. I have seen her, weary from a day on her feet, set aside her teacup, brush the headache from her eyes and rise to answer another set of questions, find the information requested, and send her customers away smiling at her habitual “God bless you!” delivered in a variety of accents.
It was one of Daisy’s Spanish days. An elderly couple came into the Centre on a sultry and desultory afternoon. He was bowed, leaning heavily on a stick. He and Daisy came face to face. He straightened slightly, spat a spate of words. Daisy smiled a secret smile. We watched one persona dissolve and another emerge. Softly she began singing. Her voice throbbed with passion. The tune was vaguely familiar, the words were strange. The old man’s face changed; unheeded tears wet his cheeks. The woman with him slipped her arm through his. He leaned into her support. Her song over, Daisy approached closer, speaking softly. She ushered them to the room we used for making teas and coffees and closed the door.
Later, when we were tidying prior to closing the Centre Amanda asked her who they were. Daisy, our ordinary Daisy, replied, “He is a professor of medicine. Almost ten years ago he told me I had an inoperable and untreatable cancer. He gave me less than a year to live. I told him my God could do the things that no human doctor could. He spat in my face.”
“What did you sing? What language was that?”
“Hebrew, the language of heaven. He is Jewish. I sang my testimony, –“
Once again her voice throbbed; now the language was our own, the tune immediately familiar.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never changes; His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness, O Lord Jesus, thy faithfulness.”
She added simply, “Jesus is my Healer. He died to give me life. Today the Professor has seen the truth of what I told him many years ago. This time he didn’t spit when I said God bless you. He said, “Shalom!” instead.”
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