May 19, 2009


I blame this heightened sensitivity to sound and sudden wave of uncomfortable flashbacks on two things. 1) The fact that I have completed reading A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving for a second time and 2) a good friend recently lost his Father.

For those who haven’t read Owen Meany, please do, and for those who have read it, how could anyone forget what the VOICE OF OWEN MEANY SOUNDS LIKE and how poignant it is even in print form when “the voice” is silenced forever.

There is that terrible word again. Silence.

I have never put much thought into my violent distaste for complete silence or my need to surround myself with constant noise until just now; literally minutes ago. It appears my association with silence carries the staggering weight of death itself – the closest thing my imagination can fathom to what that great big vat of permanent dim nothingness might be like - awful and stinging.

Silence admittedly is my enemy. Ask anyone who knows me well. I surround myself with noise makers. If I am not playing music in one room or another there is probably a television on somewhere in the house and not because I care about what is really coming out of it but more importantly it makes noise and fills an otherwise hushed space. I sleep with a fan or some sort of white noise machine on whenever possible and am cursed to a night of tossing and turning if placed in an environment that lacks background noises. I find peaceful quiet neighborhoods brutally haunting and uncomfortable. I consider them literal dead zones, but with good reason.

My brother Peter was a music fanatic and was the first person to ever make me a mix tape. I still own this cassette and consider it among my prized possessions. I recall very little about his memorial service (there was no funeral) but I remember how my ears ached all day to hear music, something that helped to so clearly define my brother to me on a day where there was none to hear. Family and friends spoke in his memory but his voice had vanished never to be heard again and the soundtrack to his character was also painfully missing.

I could say the same of my Brother Christopher’s memorial service held at the fire station where he was a volunteer fireman. There were sirens blown, more speeches from loved ones, but there was no music. Music was a great passion for my brother and I am certain it circulated in his body as if it was life giving blood.

I was too devastated to speak at his service but later that day did I ask to have a song I had written play at a private family function because music was the only communication I could fathom bridging life and death as well as representing the bond between us as brother and sister.

My Father’s ashes were fed into the Atlantic Ocean by my sister, her children and I as my mother watched us in her wheelchair from the boardwalk. None of us spoke. The wind and water did all the talking and without words we collected iridescent seashells and stuffed them into our pockets for keepsakes on a day that required no human sound. Our breaths were literally carried away.

My Mother’s memorial was held in a library and I feel like that symbolically speaking it was the mother of all great silences. Libraries are obviously quiet places and it seemed very appropriate to find a space that would promise me a blanket of hush I had grown so accustomed to from funeral’s past. No voice would match the soothing melody of my mother’s speaking voice and it would have been a crime to try and resurrect it and pass it through my lips. I dreaded hearing everyone else speak that day for the very same reason.

To my ears and through my life experiences, death truly has no sound and is represented by a lack there of. The sound of the living paying respects and grieving only masks the epic and startling sound of emptiness we face when we lose someone forever. Music has grown to represent life to me and in turn I don’t just surround myself with it, I gorge myself upon it. As long as I have music, can hear music, play music, make music, I am not just happy, I am vibrant and very much alive.


  1. Anonymous 5/19/09, 9:03 AM

    This was really beautiful; thanks for writing it. It's crazy how different we are though; I love silence and look forward to it and feel soothed by it, and sometimes too much noise stresses me out or makes me feel panicky. Maybe if we get me some earmuffs, we'll run into each other more often. Haha.

  2. We would have the cutest earmuffs - I am picturing them already!

  3. Wow. I know I'm a little late on the comment circuit for this, but I wanted to echo Tess: what a beautiful entry.