I turned the monitor off Sunday morning not knowing it would be the last time.
For three and a half years I have slept with one ear open, listening to the monitor, learning the sounds of the different creaks of the hospital bed in the room below me.
One creak meant he was getting up. It was followed by the shuffle-thud of him walking with his walker into the bathrooom.
A different creak meant he was getting back into bed. I could hear the soft rustle of the bedding as he rolled onto his side and pulled the blankets up above his shoulders.
If I didn’t hear the back-to-bed creaks but heard the click of the light switch, I knew I needed to go down and redirect. He would be heading to his closet to choose clothes for church — no matter what day of the week it was. Sometimes that happened at 11:30 PM and sometimes in the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes it was every hour throughout night.
The monitor sat on my bedside table where its yellow light showed me it was on and its faint buzz served as a secondary reminder.
Now I hear the deep breathing of my husband sleeping beside me.
Just the other day I had been telling someone that I hadn’t heard the coyotes all summer. With the monitor off and the insomnia on, I could hear them, their long lonesome howls coming from somewhere farther away than previous years, but still there.
I hear a bird I can’t identify.
I hear gentle rain hitting the wide leaves of the hydrangea.
I hear the obnoxious sounds of vehicles driving on wet road. I can identify the milk truck, the speeding pick-ups, the cars. I can tell it’s foggy because everyone drives so much slower.
It’s so quiet, though, without the monitor.
I want to hear the bed creak and the shuffle-thud.
My father passed away Sunday night.
He had dressed himself Saturday morning and eaten a bowl of cereal. Mid-afternoon he vomited brown-black — a sign of a GI bleed. He went to bed before dinner, and never got out of it again. The next day he was gone.
Thomas Merton said, “Prayer and Love are learned in the hour when prayer has become impossible and your heart has turned to stone.” (Seeds of Contemplation)
Prayer and love are learned in the quiet of a monitor that been turned off.
Merton also said, “The monk faces the worst, and discovers in it the hope of the best.” (Contemplative Prayer)
I’m facing the quiet.
I’m looking for the blessing.