Brody: When silence speaks volumes

Published 11:36 am Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Silence, simply put, is the absence of noise or sound. Yet, over the years, I have learned it does not mean lack of communication.

I had an aunt who was completely deaf. When her husband died, our family went to their house.

I was barely a teenager and unfamiliar with death or what to say around it. But I felt I should say something to make her feel better.

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Little did I know nothing on the face of the earth would make her feel better, but still, I stood in front of her and prattled on with platitudes I had heard.

My aunt smiled and reached for me. Without a sound she folded me close to her ample breast and began the back and forth of her rocking chair.

As I recall that day, I don’t know who was soothing whom.

When she bent her head close to mine, she silently was telling me I did not have to use words to make her feel better. In that moment she taught me that love is far stronger than any words. Silence.

Then there was another time I was speaking at a meeting for people who were trying to deal with grief. It was a large group of all ages.

After my talk I opened up the audience for anyone who felt the need to talk about their grief.

There was a lovely lady sitting about half way back in the room. I remember she wore a pale pink silk dress and a wide-brimmed hat the same color.

She didn’t look particularly sad but she raised her hand and asked if she could talk.

Of course, she could, and everyone respectfully listened while she wondered why her son would do such a thing as hang himself. Her son, she said was ideal, with an ideal life.

She went on and on and it began to seem she could not stop. Maybe, could never stop.

I got up from my chair, walked to where the lady in pink stood, and simply reached for her hand. Somehow, my touch quieted the tortured mother, quieted her breathing, her emotions, her loss.

The two of us sat down together and our hands never parted. Touching often needs no words at all. And holding hands is a powerful connection. Silence.

I’ve often written about my sweet mother. The love affair that lasted more than 60 years between my mother and daddy came to an end on a Dec. 7 night when he slipped away in his sleep.

This left mother living alone in their lovely condo at Abbey Delray.

I stayed with her for weeks afterwards, trying to make things livable for her.

I should have known better. Nothing could do that and no matter how I promised to come often from my home in Kentucky, it really didn’t matter what I did, what I said or how often I came. He was gone and she was left alone to wait.

The call came on one cold, sad night. When I answered the phone, mother said simply, “Jean, I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to be alone while I’m waiting.”

She did not need to explain what she meant. I knew. The next day I flew to her. Thank God, by then I had learned a life lesson, the value of silence and the power of being.

Almost as soon as I arrived she left her condo and moved into a room in the adjacent nursing home. I spent my days sitting with her, listening a lot and saying little. And at night I arranged to sell her belongings or give them to family members.

Time passed. Then one early morning, I felt led to leave the condo and go to see mother.

The grass was wet with dew and the walk over to the nursing home was lined with beautiful flowers, birds were flying and singing joyfully, but I felt like running to her bedside.

When I got there, she was sitting up. The nurse was trying to make her eat some yogurt which she did not want. With no words, I simply took it away.

My mother looked at me as if to say, “Thank you for understanding that I don’t want to wait any longer.” No words were needed and in a peaceful silence she lowered her head onto my crying body, took two big breaths and passed.

Not a single word was spoken or needed. Our bodies touched just as they touched the day she bore me and in silence and in love, both our last thoughts were peaceful.

One of my sweetest memories has been those days with my mother when she didn’t want to wait alone. It was about understanding silence.

The view from the mountain is wondrous.

Jean Brody is a passionate animal lover and mother. She previously lived in Winchester, but now resides in Littleton, Colorado. Her column has appeared in the Sun for more than 25 years.