As I have become used to the constant hum of computers, cell phones ringing (or buzzing) during dinner, and blaring sirens of emergency vehicles speeding down the road at all hours of the day, I have affirmed my beliefs in the power of silence. I find hope in the state of silence, where being is essential and doing is needless.
I believe that silence nurtures love. When all the day’s stories are told, when the latest gossip becomes old news, and when the television starts playing re-runs, silence is all that is left. Although many people never experience the power of this potent state, I know that love lingers in moments of true silence.
When I was younger, my brothers and I would take turns spending weekends at my grandparents’ house. When it was your turn, you were pampered and spoiled, receiving the loving attention of two grandparents who lived to make you happy.
Yet, as we grew older, these weekend visits came more sparingly. Although I did miss these visits, I became aware of an important element of my grandparents’ lifestyle that I had overlooked, or perhaps even prevented, during my weekend stays at their home. I came to recognize the sound love that my grandmom and grandpop have for each other. I saw it as they looked at each other from opposite heads of the table as we shared Christmas dinner as a family. I saw it in the way my grandpop escorted my grandmom to the car. I saw it in the way they shared stories about each other with the family. How could I have missed this during my frequent stays at their home?
I found the answer to this question the next time I stayed with my grandparents, when my parents were going out and my brothers were each sleeping over friends’ houses. I brought books to read and homework to do so that I would “stay out of their hair” as my mother had warned me because “they aren’t as young as they used to be.” Of course, much of the traditional routine of these visits stayed the same, including Church and dinner out on Saturday night. Yet, Sunday morning was different. I was prepared to entertain myself, doing my homework and reading my book until my parents would pick me up.
However, as I began to walk down the stairs, I felt something different. Descending the flight of stairs, I saw my grandmom and grandpop each sitting, one on the sofa, one in a chair, reading the newspaper in complete silence. I stood paralyzed for a moment, taking in the intensity of the silence. But when my grandpop saw me standing on the stairs, he jumped up, cheerfully announced my presence, notifying my grandmom that I was awake. I continued my way down the stairs, grappling with the realization that I had disturbed the peace. At this moment, I finally recognized the profound love that they shared for each other. They loved every moment they spent together, even if it meant just being in the same room, reading the newspaper. Words were unnecessary; all they needed was to be sure of each other’s presence.
After this experience, I have never looked at my grandparents’ the same way again. Whenever I think about them, I picture them sitting in the living room, exactly where they were that day, reading the newspaper in peace. Even after fifty years of marriage, they make each other better people every day. They give each other the dignity they each deserve as God’s people. Listening to the silence is one way of being together, of loving each other, of caring for one another.
Silence comes in many forms at many times. If you recognize it, if you embrace it, you too will come to believe that silence nurtures love.
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