I love the sound of silence. My days would seem, to you, to be mostly silent, no radio or TV, no conversation, just the occasional sigh as a dog moves in his sleep, the creak of my old favourite wooden chair as I sit at my desk, the heavy-fisted pounding of my fat fingers on the key board…. but maybe once or twice a day I click onto the videos of The Irish Blessing, or the song ‘Oceans’ or a Bach Mass. There I can share in an act of worship, become conscious of other people all over the world praying, remind myself that I am not alone. I miss praying with others – nothing do with Covid but with deafness. And people do mumble so when they pray! That’s made me laugh – it reminds me of my Dad, who had a similar deafness and blamed the whole world but never his own ears.
Silence is good, so good. It means there is no straining to hear, no distraction from thought. Much of the time I have tinnitus in one ear, little yelps of noise and squeaks and low rumbles, distant hissing. It can be quite annoying. Sometimes, to be a bit more honest, it’s bloody annoying. It even wakes me up in the middle of the night with some half-heard sound that my brain conjures into an unlikely event – a horse clip clopping towards the bathroom, or some angry memory yelling my name. So, whenever the white noise stops and silence descends…. ahhhhh. Lovely. That’s why I said “My days would seem, to you, to be mostly silent”. As I write this, tonight all is silence. Thank you, Lord for the wonderful gift of stillness, peace.
I’ve been watching, through my high windows, the daily dance of a hundred crows silently circling and gliding in the twilight, preparing to roost. If I was under them I would have heard them cawing, but here at my desk they seemed to gather and soar and swoop in silence. I love their daily dance. Now it’s dark and the blind is down, and I’m simply revelling in this early evening peace, loving the light bulb glowing behind my Mac, the shadows, the idea of talking to you, the fabulous privilege of this simple life that has, after 72 years, come to make such perfect sense. Like a jewel. Like a pearl. Like a perfect shimmering drop of crystal water, gathering and about to drop… to be no more.
I rarely talk about my own death, but when I do my grandchildren are indignant, as if it will never happen and it’s ludicrous to imagine it, but it’s coming… as surely as a drop of water must fall, so a life must end.
I’ve reached the age when I hesitate to buy new coat. How much use will I get out of it? If I only have a couple of years left, won’t the one I’ve got be OK? I could be gone tomorrow and then, think of of it, 50 quid down the plughole when it could have been of real use to someone. There is an impermanence in life that’s plain exciting. That droplet of water, the waves as they hit the shore, the tide as it ebbs and flows, the sun as it rises and sets…. there’s beauty in impermanence. When my husband died, our 14 year old grieving, shocked, weeping daughter said something that was true and wise and a deep and real comfort to me. Still is. The undertakers were taking George away and we sat in the front room, trying not to hear the footsteps and the murmurs, not to look out and see our lovely man being taken away from us, and I said something foolish and wrecked like “He died too young.” and Louise said “No, he had the life he was meant to have. He had his full life.”
I don’t know why I feel the need to tell you all this tonight, but I do, and I’ve learned to listen to these promptings: life is precious, because it ends. That droplet of water, captured in that moment, is beautiful because it will fall and the moment will be gone. Every morning I watch the waves crash or creep, whisper or roar on the beach and I marvel at them, wave upon wave, million upon million, every one distinct, every moment particular, and then they are gone. But another and another and another. Rolling in. Each one beautiful, distinct, and if just one wave wasn’t there, the world would tip, the ocean would slip, the rhythm of the sea would break. Every life and every moment, however short or long, is beautiful and precious, and irreplaceable. And meant to be.
I look back on my life, the people I’ve loved and lost and the people I’ve found and will lose one day, and I’m filled to the brim with wonder. Life. Bloody wonderful, isn’t it? Even when we’re knee deep in trouble and grief and confusion… it’s wonderful.
Why would God make us with such imaginations and intellects, such a facility for memory and love and longing, such delight and silliness and greed and plain old wrongness? Because he loves us. He is for us. Because life is precious. He is for life, for life. That’s why he made the world, that’s why he made day and night, you and me. Because he loves us and rejoices in us and desires us.
It’s taken me 72 blinkin’ years to see the shape of my life. To see that when I was away with the fairies, reeling from one disaster to the next, ricocheting from one poor decision to an even worse one, God was bringing me to this evening, to those wheeling crows, to this desk and lamplight and silence. The white noise, the tinnitus of the world has died away.
If you long for peace, here’s the news for today…. peace is found in only one place, in the knowledge and love of Jesus. He offers that peace and joy to everyone.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27