Breaking the sound of silence

Breaking the sound of silence

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This story may be of help to others in a similar situation. That is why my lifetime friend gave me permission to share what was a family secret. He is one of four siblings — three brothers and a sister — and three of them had long ago stopped talking with the fourth. Why this happened isn’t important to the account. There are certainly plenty of disagreements and aggravations within families. But the one brother felt so pained that he refused to speak to the others and they all fell into a thick silence.

It’s like a game of dominos, this kind of walling off. As the adults refused to talk to one another, their children, in-laws, different aunts, uncles and cousins all drifted apart, pulled by what they felt was a sense of loyalty to whichever of the angry ones was the closest relative. And it was easy to separate. The four lived in different parts of the country: the estranged one in Oregon, one in California, one in Texas and my friend and his wonderful wife here in Long Island. I call her “wonderful” because she is the heroine of the story, the one who finally broke the logjam.

Out of the blue, one day some months ago, she asked her husband, “If James died, would you go to his funeral?”

Her husband looked up in astonishment and replied, “Of course! He is my brother.”

“Well, he hasn’t died, so what do you say we go visit him?”

Her husband hesitated. “I don’t know. I’d have to think about that. What if he didn’t want to see us?”

“I’ll email him right now and tell him we are coming. Let’s see what he says.” With that she quickly left the room to find her cellphone and to cut short any objection. She sent the message and they waited. And waited. Several days passed. They made up reasons why he hadn’t answered — out of town, email down, hadn’t checked his computer. Other reasons weren’t pretty to contemplate.

Then they got a flurry of messages, each with something planned for their visit. He had made reservations here, gotten tickets there, suggested a drive together to a nearby destination. They read the emails joyfully. Clearly he wanted them to come. After registering the explicit and also the underlying messages, they went to the phone and called the other two siblings, asking if they would join the visit. Immediately the others agreed to go.

During a week last summer they all met for the first time in over a decade and immediately fell to again being brothers and sister. They didn’t bother to speak about what had originally angered them. It didn’t matter. What was important was to be in the moment, enjoying each other, catching up on so much news.

When the week was over, they made sure to plan for their next get-together. The rock that had weighed them down was lifted. They had found each other again, reconnected the family and were moving into the future, stronger for being together.

It just took one brave outreach, a willingness to be rejected for a greater good, to bring them all home again, at least in their hearts. I love my friend for being that brave one, the first to say, “That’s enough, there isn’t that much time left, the time has come to take down the wall.”

Blessed is the peacemaker. And so she is.