What My Dying Mother Taught Me About The Power Of Silence
From November of 2011 to February of 2012, I had a surreal experience. My mom was suffering advanced stage ALS, living past her life expectancy and defying all odds by waking up each morning. I gave birth to my second child, a baby girl, at the beginning of November.
We were unsure if my mom and my daughter were going to meet. It had been an extremely intense sort of gruesome race to see if they would indeed cross paths in the physical world. Many doctors had predicted my mother’s passing before my baby’s arrival. Many tears had been shed in fear of this occurring. So for my mom to still be alive when my daughter was born was a tremendous joy for me.
My mom was too ill to visit me in the hospital. I could barely wait to take the baby to meet her. The day of my discharge from the hospital, there was an unexpected delay in paperwork that caused me to have to wait an additional five hours. They were agonizing. I was wracked with emotions, desperate to see my mom’s face when she first saw my sweet new angel, whom we named in honor of her, using her nickname my son bestowed upon her years ago.
Once released, we went straight to my parent’s house. It was all I could do not to beg my husband to burn rubber. The sweetness of that introduction was beyond priceless. It's a moment I will forever cherish in my heart packed with relief and beauty and overwhelming love.
Afterwards, I settled into the routine of taking my daughter over to see my mother daily. I wanted them to be able to spend time together. It was such a gift that they were able to meet; I didn’t want to squander a moment of it.
My mother was unable to talk at this point. She couldn’t whisper very well either. Breathing was difficult for her; swallowing was a monumental feat. She had a talk-board that she could type messages on if she wasn’t too doped on pain medicine to manage it. It was often too much effort. This equated to my spending an immense amount of time with my loved ones — in complete silence.
Yes, sometimes I would read to mom when the baby was sleeping on my chest and sometimes I would tell her stories. But often, we would all just sit in silence. Sometimes, my daughter and my mother just gazed at one another.
During this time, I became acutely aware of the ability to communicate without words. I could sense my mother’s needs; I could also sense my baby’s needs. Neither one of them could speak. It was truly fascinating and also a very peaceful way to exist.
I offer you this humbly: Tune in to the mystery of life without words. If you don't already, take some time each day to revel in silence. Feel the silence of your own being. Feel into the silence of your loved ones. Allow yourself to tap into the joy of emanating your truth, not just speaking it. There is unexpected power in this graceful way of being.
You'll find yourself more attuned to your own needs and to those of the folks around you. If you're a teacher — and we're all teachers in some capacity — this will allow you to connect with your students in a profound way. You'll cultivate awareness of energy levels, body language and the hidden messages in the eyes. The eyes don’t lie. Tapping into their immense depth is a great source of inspiration and awe for me. My mother’s eyes spoke volumes in the end — fear, courage, resignation, relief, hope, sorrow, boundless love, peace.
The end came in February, when my mom passed. This brief phase of my passage has had a lasting impact on me. I hope you find some meaning in it as well. The ability to communicate without uttering a word is a phenomenal skill worth honing and sharing.