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The Silent Hole in the World

There is a sound a family makes that only its members can truly appreciate.  The interplay of voices, footfalls, laughter, sobbing, shrieks of joy and frustration and anger, songs sung, catchphrases, the rattle and chirp of beloved toys played with, doors slamming, the rustling of clothing and whispers of breathing, running water and bath splashes and teeth brushed.  The aural fabric of lives entwined.  It forms a curtain around you, altering your perceptions of the world.  It becomes the world.

You feel it, usually half-consciously, but if you stop and listen with purpose, you can actively hear it and savor it and know that the world is right, secure and content inside the cocoon it weaves.  It’s not a symphony, it’s nothing so organized and artificial and remote as that, but sure, yes, call it a symphony, because words like “texture” and “landscape” are even more misleading.

And now a whole section has been silenced.  Not simply resting, not waiting to rejoin the piece, but utterly removed from the stage.  Vanished forever.

I cannot describe how utterly wrong that feels.  Everything feels wrong, sounds wrong, every instinct is scraped on edge, screaming danger, because something has gone fundamentally, horribly wrong and I must fix it.  And I can’t fix it.  It can never be fixed, not by anyone.  Someone is missing and will never be found, no matter how many times we look; can never be replaced, no matter what we might do to try.

There is a silent hole in the world, and the best I can ever hope to do is train my ear not to hear it, most of the time.  Find a way to hear around the void and let what’s left fill my ears.  If I am lucky and work very hard at it, I can learn to appreciate the symphony for what it is, and not constantly obsess over what it once was and should still be.

11 Responses»

    • #1
    • Comment
    • Thu 26 Jun 2014
    • 1210
    Jesse wrote in to say...

    I think I understand what you mean. As parents, we jump up if it’s been quiet for too long because that natural “symphony” has changed and it usually indicates something is awry. In your case, it’s even worse because your instinct to the silence is most likely “something’s not right…” with an immediate reminder that, yes, something is most definitely not right.

    • #2
    • Comment
    • Thu 26 Jun 2014
    • 1330
    Kimberly wrote in to say...

    Eric, I’m familiar with the deafening silence associated with losing a family member. I did find that, over time, that person’s “theme” (to continue the music analogy) re-emerged in the parts played by other family members — certainly not as a replacement, but more as a recapitulation. I hope this can be true for you and for your family one day. I hold you all close as I close my eyes and listen.

    • #3
    • Comment
    • Thu 26 Jun 2014
    • 1356
    cyrille wrote in to say...

    Your words about what it feels to be into a family living together are quite effective on me. A real “symphony” humanly speaking as Jesse wrote, I think it’s the first time I hear someone making it touchable in this way. Which is quite nice.
    My thoughts go towards you (plural). I remember how we Human, as Nature, are not well fitted to cope with holes. Whatever our mind wants and our soul protests, we have to fill them up. And IMHO we better watch out what we use to do so. So that we stand still to be part and listen to the exceptional sound of the family and friends, who are.

    • #4
    • Comment
    • Thu 26 Jun 2014
    • 1411
    Lydia wrote in to say...

    I am listening now, newly alert and with full attention, to learn to recognize and appreciate the symphony of my life and beloved.

    This so well describes the lack following loss of a loved one. Decades past, I wish I could recall the sounds made by my missing father but I clearly recall trying not to hear his absence shortly after his death.

    Thank you once again for help remembering this precious and tortuous part of loving, losing and grieving. I had forgotten.

    • #5
    • Comment
    • Thu 26 Jun 2014
    • 1436
    rendered speechless (@dharawal) wrote in to say...

    After my mum died I remember straining and listening really hard as if by listening really closely I would hear her car come down the street and the noise the brakes made as she pulled up. Then the squeaky protest/moan of the door and then the boot as she got things out of it. I listened and listened and with every car that came down the road my immediate thought was “yay it’s mum” followed by the gut wrenching knowledge that it would never be mum ever again.

    Even now some almost 15 years I hear a certain brand of car and within me there’s a little bit that holds onto the hope that it’s my mum.

    Sending all love to you and your family.

    • #6
    • Comment
    • Thu 26 Jun 2014
    • 2327
    Ellen HS wrote in to say...

    Yes, a thousand times yes. I’m crying now for the hole in your world, and the hole in my world. It’s just all so wrong. And you capture it so beautifully.

    • #7
    • Comment
    • Fri 27 Jun 2014
    • 0329
    Bjarne Dahlin wrote in to say...

    Having lost my wife 6 months ago I still hear and feel things as if she was still here. It will never go away, but it will fade some.

    Made me think oddly about Google SERPs in that you can never remove bad things form Google, but you can drown the bad with oceans of good stuff. Meaning, I can never remove my sad memories and feelings, but I can make it fade some by surrounding myself with as much good as I can possibly find. It will take its time, but eventually I will have found some peace of mind, and can look back on good memories.

    I’ve followed your journey with Recebecca whilst my wife had colon cancer coming back – this time permanently. Knowing the end would come, hoping that Becca would make it helped a lot then. I’m sure you’ll find peace, a new kind of peace that works for you and family!

    • #8
    • Comment
    • Fri 27 Jun 2014
    • 0608
    hawkse wrote in to say...

    I know the feeling exactly. It’s what one experiences when being alone at home with the rest of the family being elsewhere every once in a while. Except, I’ve yet to experience the permanence of losing a member of my immediate family. You’ll most likely hear Rebecca in your mind for the rest of your life – and I believe that is probably a good thing. It will – in time – bring bright memories back instead of the now more current sad events.

    • #9
    • Comment
    • Sat 28 Jun 2014
    • 1617
    talupu wrote in to say...


    I understand silent holes. I have nothing else to say really, except that I understand..

    Take care of yourselves.

    • #10
    • Comment
    • Sun 29 Jun 2014
    • 1343
    Samantha wrote in to say...

    Thinking of you and your family as you move through this lonely time. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    • #11
    • Comment
    • Thu 3 Jul 2014
    • 1914
    Anna wrote in to say...

    I think you are right … hope that you can retrain your hearing, or not be hurt so much by noting the loss.

    I was thinking as I debriefed from grief therapy yesterday, sometimes I think I am the one holding on … but even happy moments are not the same without them.

    Wishing you peace …

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