A Resounding Silence.

The sun tried its best to pierce its way through the heavy clouds that were brooding over the graveyard. Starlings argued in the bare branches of the tree nearby, an irreverent yet timely reminder of life. A sudden gust of wind blew across the line of children, ruffling their hair. One of the boys absent-mindedly ran his fingers through his fringe, then scuffed at the gravel with the point of his shoe.

“Where shall we put it?” The girls moved forward and gently moved two wreaths apart to make room for the plant. Crouching down, they slid the flower-pot on to the tomb, then placed the handwritten card in the leaves and stepped back, feet crunching on the gravel.

Six pairs of eyes looked down at sneaker-covered feet, then up towards the soft, grey, impenetrable sky. I did likewise – like them, I could not bring myself to focus on the sea of white flowers before me. How I wished the sky had been blue. How I wished that the sky had brought more hope that this.

The momentary silence was uncomfortable. Eleven-year-olds are never this silent, and one of the boys answered their unspoken need to justify it by clearing his throat and quietly saying, “I guess it’s time for a minute of silence”. Heads nodded, hands were clasped  together.

Silence ensued. The silence of six children contemplating another child’s grave is unlike any other. It was at this moment that I understood the concept of a “resounding” silence; by definition, silence is devoid of noise, yet silence can speak volumes. The children’s silence communicated so much – feelings and emotions tumbled out of that silence and seeped into me through each and every pore.

The silence spoke. It said that the children had taken yet another step into the hard reality of life, a reality that we parents try to protect them from for as long as we can. It explained that their rounded, pre-teen shoulders were feeling the unfamiliar weight of sadness. The silence reassured me, telling me that they were more mature and more resilient than I had imagined. It was a sad silence that expressed their feelings for the friend who had lost his little brother. It was an angry silence that screamed that life was unfair. It was a frightened silence that asked fate to spare them from the same experience in the future. And a comforting silence that wrapped itself around them and embraced their friendship.

In this roaring silence, a tiny, isolated sound caught my attention. Then another. Light, crisp, clean, almost imperceptible. I would never have heard this sound without the silence. The children noticed the sound too, and their eyes sought its source. The sky had stopped brooding, the tension had disappeared. The first raindrops were falling gently on the ribbons decorating the wreaths.

A voice interrupted the silence. “Ok, I think that’s enough. Wow, it felt like ten minutes.” A nervous giggle rippled through the group. Then they moved. Shoulders were squared, their faces cleared, and determined expressions replaced the worry that had been there seconds before. “Right. Where are we taking him to cheer him up?”

The silence was over.

Post written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge: the sound of silence.

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48 thoughts on “A Resounding Silence.

    • I’m no good in emotional situations at all – I’m a real sponge, and I soak up all the sadness. This time I managed to keep a lid on my emotions because the kids did such a good job themselves. I was the only grown-up who was available to take them that day, so I had to be a tough cookie.

  1. Wow – that is really a tough thing to deal with. Unfortunately I went through this twice with my oldest son and I remember the intensity. Beautifully written.

  2. Great writing, MM. I love the way you move from the big, momentous sadness to the tiny sound of rain drops. You capture the sadness of the occasion, but the resilience and hope of youth. 🙂

    • I think your comment is better than the post itself 🙂 You should be reviewing books for the Guardian with critiques like that! Maybe we could do it together – a kind of Merlot bottle-clutching caped crusader duo, like Ab Fab only better?

      • LOL you can tell I’ve been reviewing a lot lately? I’m part of the 100 Word Challenge for school-children around the world. I review 10 pieces per week. 🙂

        I don’t think we’re pretentious enough for the Guardian, but I like the name of the Merlot Duo caped crusaders determined to rid the world of bottled bile and bollocks! 🙂

  3. Oh gosh, I’m so relieved. I thought it was real.
    And of course it is because this happens every day and, for all I know, may have truly happened like this.
    I am a little raw having just come from another blogger whose brother died recently. Death is often a beast but it leaves much in its wake – of all sorts.

  4. That was a powerfully evocative and beautiful piece of writing, MM. You captured the children’s reaction perfectly, as I remember from the time I took DD to a classmate’s funeral when she was just a teenager. You are are a writer, you know, not just a blogger.

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