« Very Rare Eye Candy - Brain Candy Combo! | Main | Thanks to Dean for this clever link... »

August 05, 2004

"And now there is merely silence, silence, silence, saying all we did not know." - William Rose Benet

As chaplains, those of us who drew the dreaded and loved 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. shifts in Richmond's downtown MCV hospital were required to conclude our tours of duty by logging the night's activity in a notebook, to be read by the day staff in case follow-ups were needed.

Normally filled with names, times, conditions and activity reports, this is the report I wrote one particular Thursday afternoon:

It started with noise, in the way that Wednesday nights are often noisy. The code beeper came to life, demanding attention, signaling to those of us who are chaplains and therefore forced to listen that somewhere in the hospital someone was dying, or dead.

There was noise as I arrived. Nurses and doctors huddled around a newborn, shouting orders, yelling for this or that medication. A mother, asking questions that had no good answers, questions like "What's wrong with him?" and "Will he be alright?" More noise as monitors sounded alarms. More noise as the father's labored breathing gave background to the shuffle of activity around the little one. Then, finally, more noise, as a deep voice cut through the cacophany, "Time of death, 1:32 A.M."

And then silence.

You call yourself a chaplain, Dan, don't you have anything to say? Where are your words of comfort now? Where is your precious faith now?

There was another chaplain with me. He was useless, too.

We quietly steered the couple, the mother and father, to a family room. I opened my mouth to start to say something, anything, to speak to their pain, but what words are there for a time like this? There is only silence. Only silence can communicate what a mother feels when she loses her 9-day old son.

We sat in silence for half an hour, then an hour. One of the other of us would sob out loud occasionally, but even that was cut short, as if in reverence for the silence, for the empty, hollow, quiet place that was now forever part of their lives. Even a hundred healthy children could never fill the empty place that was now in their hearts. Part of them would always keep silence now, even in the happiest of times.

And what was there for me to say? I was powerless in the face of such amazing grief. No words from a textbook or verse from the Bible can make a dent in a pain so big, so sudden.

Finally, I slipped out of the room, to find the nurses. They had wrapped the baby in a blanket, clean and blue. They had combed his hair. It is part of my job to bring the parents their child, to hold for the last time. Numbly, silently, I took the child that would not even see ten days in to them.

There are times when keeping silence communicates more powerfully than a million words or songs or cries. There are times when the only thing you can give to someone is your silent presence, your sharing of their pain. Sometimes silence says that there are emotions too deep for words, too primal, too much a part of who we try to hide to ever be expressed aloud.

And so I was there, with them, silent in that awful, terrible room for as long as they wanted to stay. Where could I go? Where could I run from silence? I had shared with these two souls the most terrible, most defining moment of the rest of their lives. I had been with them to watch their child die.

Later, they left. I finished my shift in silence, waiting for 8 A.M. to arrive. Tears would fall from time to time, and I never moved to dry them. If I spoke, it was only in response to questions, and even then my answers were nothing more than excuses to be silent again. Silence has that kind of power, a power I had never seen before.

Somehow, I drove myself home and got safely into the bed.

It is a terrible thing when it is too quiet to sleep. I lay awake, staring at the pillow where my wife's head would have been if she were home, should have been if there were any justice in the world. I lay awake staring, praying that she would never leave the place she holds in my heart. It is too big a place to be empty, to be silent. Funny how I never seem to tell her that. Funny how silence can teach us the things that are truly important.

Sometimes silence can be a cave to hide in, an excuse to never take risks.

After a while, physical and emotional exhaustion took over, and I fell asleep.

I almost never remember my dreams, but that morning I dreamed of a white room, and a blue blanket, and I was trying to scream or cry or yell, but all I could dream was silence.

And we all go in to them, into the silent funeral,
Nobody's funeral, for there is no one to bury.
I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God.

- T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, East Coker, 1940

Posted by Dan at August 5, 2004 08:30 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.danielchampion.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/77

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "And now there is merely silence, silence, silence, saying all we did not know." - William Rose Benet:

» mouse click for source from mouse click for source
Popping Culture: Creative Writing Archives [Read More]

Tracked on April 30, 2013 02:05 AM

» Www.Visitsunnyaz.com from Www.Visitsunnyaz.com
Popping Culture: Creative Writing Archives [Read More]

Tracked on April 30, 2013 12:03 PM

» no deposit bonuses 2 from no deposit bonuses 2
Popping Culture: Creative Writing Archives [Read More]

Tracked on May 1, 2013 01:29 PM

» no deposit bonuses uk from no deposit bonuses uk
Popping Culture: Creative Writing Archives [Read More]

Tracked on May 1, 2013 02:47 PM

» no deposit bonuses keep winnings usa ok from no deposit bonuses keep winnings usa ok
Popping Culture: Creative Writing Archives [Read More]

Tracked on May 1, 2013 08:09 PM

Comments

My mind screams in a deafening roar every time I am paralyzed with silence. There are no words to say, but the screams are still heard in the mind.

I do not envy you... I know I may not be able to help much, but if ther is something that I could do or say... just let me know

Posted by: Chris from NH at August 6, 2004 05:35 PM

In your free time, check out some information about payday loan payday loan http://payday-loan.conjuratia.com/ cash advance cash advance http://cash-advance.conjuratia.com/ credit card credit card http://credit-card.conjuratia.com/ debt consolidation debt consolidation http://payday-loans.conjuratia.com/ loan loan http://loan.conjuratia.com/ debt consolidation loans debt consolidation loans http://debt-consolidation-loans.conjuratia.com/ forex forex http://forex.conjuratia.com/ current mortgage rates current mortgage rates http://current-mortgage-rates.conjuratia.com/ auto loans auto loans http://auto-loans.conjuratia.com/ interest only mortgage interest only mortgage http://interest-only-mortgage.conjuratia.com/ car loans car loans http://car-laons.conjuratia.com/ credit credit http://credit.conjuratia.com/ reverse mortgage reverse mortgage http://reverse-mortgage.conjuratia.com/ cash cash http://cash.conjuratia.com/ eloan eloan http://www.conjuratia.com/ home equity loans home equity loans http://home-equity-loans.conjuratia.com/ cash advance cash advance http://cash-advance.conjuratia.com/ forex trading forex trading http://forex-trading.conjuratia.com/ bad credit loans bad credit loans http://bad-credit-loans.conjuratia.com/ home loans home loans http://home-loans.conjuratia.com/ mortgages mortgages http://mortgages.conjuratia.com/ personal loans personal loans http://personal-loans.conjuratia.com/ free credit reports free credit reports http://free-credit-reports.conjuratia.com/ mortgage payment calculator mortgage payment calculator http://mortgage-payment-calculator.conjuratia.com/ mortgage rates mortgage rates http://mortgage-rates.conjuratia.com/ student loans student loans http://student-loans.conjuratia.com/ mortgage mortgage http://mortgage.conjuratia.com/ credit reports credit reports http://credit-reports.conjuratia.com/ loan calculator loan calculator http://loan-calculator.conjuratia.com/ credit cards credit cards http://credit-cards.conjuratia.com/ mortgage loan mortgage loan http://mortgage-loan.conjuratia.com/ pay day loan pay day loan http://pay-day-loan.conjuratia.com/ free credit report free credit report http://free-credit-report.conjuratia.com/ loans loans http://loans.conjuratia.com/ mortgage calculator mortgage calculator http://mortgage-calculator.conjuratia.com/ ...

Posted by: payday loan at March 27, 2005 05:50 PM

Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)


Remember me?