A recent experience reminded me of the words of the Swiss philosopher and theologian Max Picard: “There is something holy in almost every silence”, writes Good Samaritan Sister Pam Grey.
BY Pam Grey SGS*
In 1948, Max Picard, a Swiss philosopher and theologian, wrote a book, The World of Silence, for “this all-too-wide-awake world of noise”. A recent experience reminded me of Picard’s words: “There is something holy in almost every silence”.
I answered the phone and heard a soft voice say, “My wife is in hospital. Our baby is not ready, but my baby is here”.
We shared some moments of silence before I asked him, “Where are you?”
When I appeared at their door in the paediatric ward I was met by stillness. The mother was holding a precious bundle, a tiny human being, while her husband was leaning over her shoulder and gazing deeply.
The mother looked up, smiled, then looked down and smiled again.
Their daughter was perfectly formed, ever so small and five weeks premature. The little one had a tiny tube inserted into her wrist for the supply of antibiotics needed to fight her infection.
Then a young boy, their son, not yet four, appeared from behind his mother’s chair and broke the silence by telling me plainly that his mother and father had been crying and crying.
More silence followed as the boy waited for my response.
Tears flowed, first mine, then his.
“In love there is more silence than speech,” says Picard.
A few days later, in the corridor, the father whispered to me that he was expecting news that evening about the test results from the lumbar puncture his daughter had endured the previous day. He went on to tell me that he and his wife were advised not to witness this procedure, but to wait outside. From there they heard her cry.
“The miracle of love is that where death might be the beloved appears,” writes Picard.
At this time the baby needed no name for she was truly the Beloved – Beloved of her parents and brother, Beloved of the nurses and doctors, and all who came upon her and her family.
This little baby needed love and milk and received both abundantly. To keep her baby awake, the mother tickled the little one’s ears. Her tiny mouth would open and in popped the bottle and she would suckle once more.
With eyes still closed, the baby would smile with her mouth and cheeks whenever she heard the soft words of her mother close by.
I was in the presence of mystery and now know what it is “to treasure these things in my heart”, particularly as we all knew that the baby was ever so vulnerable.
A few days later my phone rang. The voice of the young father was clear and bright. “My baby is home! My wife is home!”
Then after a shared moment of joy, his voice dropped as he told me the tale of the previous day.
It began at the birth registry office where he discovered that his passport had expired. And then at the Medicare office the staff couldn’t place his daughter on his card until the passport was renewed. From Medicare he travelled to the appropriate embassy and discovered that the matter of the passport would take up to two months to resolve. And of course the hospital needed the family’s Medicare card now.
But then his voice quickly lightened and brightened as he told me once more, “My daughter is home! My wife is home! Come and see!”
So I did, and witnessed “the radiance that goes out from love and children”. And as Picard tells it so well, “In this radiance we cease to be alone”.
This is a miracle of love.
* Melbourne-based Good Samaritan Sister Pam Grey is a writer and poet. She also volunteers as a home tutor for newcomers to Australia who need language and resettlement support.
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