Silence has taught me many things, mainly that I need more of it. After I quit working 6 weeks before we brought our beautiful baby girl home from the hospital I realized how quiet I really was. I woke up to stillness and operated through it for most of the day. Once in a while I’d remember to turn on the radio in the kitchen and hum along, but mostly I was struck with the silence and more-so how much I loved it.
Jessica, as an infant, was the perfect baby. She didn’t cry and slept through the night within weeks. She ate wonderfully, breast feeding was never a struggle and I loved relishing in her newness. Counting fingers and toes, singing the ABC’s, praying. But a tiny baby who loves to sleep is hardly the handful of company I was promised by all those books. All that sleep I wouldn’t be getting, all those hormones I would be fighting.
We were so blessed, and I was still quiet. Able to be, wanted to be.
There came a point where I thought I needed noise. I craved for something to fill the empty space in my schedule, for something else to occupy my silence – and really, wanting it is all it really takes for the silence to fade into the white noise of expectations.
I felt guilty for relishing in this moment, for taking the effortless time to be a mother and care for my baby as well as care for myself inside of the silence of my every day. I was healing from all kinds of wounds and the silence was the blanket that kept me warm, my blood pumping, my breast fevering for life.
Tomorrow marks 8 years since the passing of my (step) dad. Parentheses in this situation are a sick formality. He was my dad. He raised me and taught me to love, he showed up. He died while I was pregnant with Jessica, I wore his watch while my body tore open the way my heart wanted to – and I gave birth to Jessica while she also gave birth to me.
The silence was a needed ingredient to my own recipe for coming to terms with this loss. A path I have yet to fully cross since then, a trail I’m afraid to step onto, most days.
And yet the butterflies still show up, in the dead of winter even, whenever we’re outside. They land on petals near us, on our hands. They keep watching over us. I’ve idolized my dad, I’ve prayed to him, for him and I’ve begged whatever would listen to just let me talk to him one more time, for just one more bear hug. I used to call his voicemail after he died, listening to his message and leaving him long conversations, questions and even answers, in a box I knew he’d never really hear.
I wonder who did get them? I wonder if they cried too, when they heard how scared I was to be so alone on this side. Trying to be so strong, to be so silent when all I really wanted was to scream.
Silence has taught me that there’s no replacing people. Silence has taught me to be patient and thankful. Filling the silence with noise has taught me that when the emptiness folds over me, it’s time to turn it off. To take another step in grief, to be gentle with myself.
I love my dad for so many reasons and there’ll come a day when he’ll have been gone longer than he was ever here – on that day I’ll cry twice as hard. Because how can it have been that long since I had a dining room dance on top of his feet? Carrying me, singing in my ear – the words to our song. The song he walked me down my wedding isle too. The song I still can’t listen to. How can it be that long since I was carrying Jessica in my belly? The world still so right. How can it be that long since I was next to him in a pew at church drowning in his voice to the hymnals, how will I ever forget his laugh? Or the way he looked at my mom?
And I know he left messages for us when he died, I have them on a CD somewhere. I still haven’t watched mine. Jessica and Oliver are curious about death, a subject they love to discuss and the only one I’m allergic too. He was a smart man, a man who said Yes to life. He didn’t hold on to things because things couldn’t hold on to him. He held us, instead.
I love that, in some way, I felt like he knew to die on the day he did. The day before my very first wedding anniversary – as if he already knew how hard that day was going to be. Remembering him giving me away and dancing with me and crying as I drove away a married woman, no longer his little girl. He left before that very special day was colored by death and heartache. I couldn’t see that before now, always drowning in his absence. But I get it. He wanted my wedding day to the day I remembered LIFE. To lean into that promise of my vow, to look at Aaron and love everything about our memories.
Silence has taught me this: that waiting for the right time is a long time to wait. That being thankful for the smallest of things is bigger than worst of things. Silence taught me how to listen.
Can you hear me now?