“There was a voice, a voice that no one had yet been familiar with seven weeks before, for
it was not the voice of the Chamberlain. This voice was not that of Christoph Detlev. It was
the voice of his death. For many a day, Christoph Detlev’s death had been living at Ulsgaard,
talking to everyone and making demands…”
The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke translated by Michael Hulse
I didn’t hear what I would call the voice of his death before my father died, or the voice of her death before my mother died. Neither did I hear it in the months after their deaths. I did begin to hear silence differently, but it wasn’t a difference that I associated with death; it seemed instead that I was hearing more of every silence that was life.
My parents, now that they were gone from the world, were not in this silence, but my awareness that they were now outside of life, as I understood life, made me listen at the edges of what they no longer could occupy; I found those edges in all the silences that life offered me. I felt what became a very large silence, large spacially and large sequentially, whenever I was alone. And that ‘largeness’ in silence began to influence the way I listened, whenever I sat down to write. But this occurred after my parents’ deaths, after I’d lived through the first round of emotions that I’ll call remorse and anger, which surfaced and receded into what I thought of as sadness. But calling it sadness was like trying to give it a taste or a smell. Once I realized it was silence that I was hearing, I could breathe again: and in breathing, I could feel as though I was inhabiting silence and letting silence inhabit me.