Washing the beachy grit off of our feet together, my mom and I continued in our usual flow of chatter. Just as my clean skin reemerged, I spewed some unpleasant feelings about someone we both knew. The kind of thing you say to feel out if the other person feels the same way, a test of sorts. As I awkwardly rose from crouched position, my eyes rested on my mom’s tight lips. The slow drip of her silence was loud and clear.
Simultaneously, a temptation to interpret her lack of words as agreement and a deep sense of knowing washed over me. Mom knew better than to speak.
I pray for my mom’s silent integrity.
“Your shoes are still on the bottom step your dance bag from 2 days ago is in the middle of the floor why is your Shrek script on the bathroom counter and didn’t I ask you to put your clean clothes away last night?” I hear the sound of my own voice, untamed. My words layer so thickly on top of each other that they are incomprehensible to my daughter’s young, sensitive ears.
That heart-sink feeling – the one that knows less would have said more – returns.
I pray for silence the next time.
It’s been 6 years and 16 days since a mother and son have spoken, the mother’s perplexing choice. If silence leaves a trail, hers tracks long and lonely, from hospital to nursing home to hospice. I wonder if 6 years and 16 days feels short now. They say we die like we live. They say our hearing is the last sense to go: Can she still hear the sound of her son’s voice? I know my husband can’t remember hers.
Tick, tock, tick, tock taunts audibly. Creeps. But silence sweeps round like a second hand, continuous and sure. When does a heart solidify?
I pray for freedom from the silence.
The silence of mothers: writer of stories, carrier of prayers, leaver of legacies.
*When I wrote this, the mother in part III, my mother-in-law, lay dying in hospice care. Last week, she took her final breath. Even death did not break this mother’s silence, but I believe that it will lift its power.