Thursday, June 08, 2017

Silence

I caught part of an interview with a chaplain who wrote about hospice chaplains. I didn't expect the emphasis on silence.

She seemed to be saying that guests who were silent could give the patient permission to be silent also--to be silent with God and their life.

There's a time for goodbyes and making sure things aren't forgotten, and especially for trying to mend fences before it is too late.

Dave Barry wrote a moving column about his father's death, and his disappointment that the last words seemed so trivial. In the nature of things, the time of dying is generally not suited for long deep talks.

But silence means something. On the one hand we know of "the silent treatment" and the "I'm too busy to be bothered," but on the other hand there's the "The words have all been said already, and we can let their meaning echo through our time together."

It's easy to think of silence as like the empty spaces in one of the old Japanese prints. The emptiness has a shape and a meaning there,, given it by the lines. But perhaps silence can also be a positive thing in its own right, a sign of a different kind of communication. "Be still and know ...?"

It turns out silence is hard to come by. Over the years I've met several people who talked as though they feared that they would stop existing if they stopped talking. As I sit here I hear the highway, the turtle tank filter, a ball game broadcast in another room--but all these are easier to quiet than the "drunken monkey." One has to try. "Be still and know ..."

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