This, the first summer without Hans, has been a summer like no other. In addition to Hans being gone, the rest of the family have been away from home nearly the entire summer work season.
And it is very quiet.
One of the first things that struck me after Hans went to be with Jesus, was how quiet our home became. Of course, at such a time, one is generally more quiet. But this was more than the silence of sorrow. It was like I had been standing near a jetliner, the engines deafening as the pilot prepares for takeoff. And then, the jet takes off and disappears into the distance and all of a sudden it is very quiet. When my ears stop ringing, I hear the birds and the insects, the sounds of life going on around me, without me, and those small noises just make the world seem even quieter – close, but far away. It is beautiful, peaceful, heartbreaking.
Our home now, with half of us gone most of the time, is like a movie with the sound turned off, or a photo album filled with pictures in which there are no people. I look around the yard; where are the people? Where is my family? There were six of us here just a minute ago.
Today is the first day of hunting season. I listen for shots in the distance that mean someone has got a moose for the freezer. I remember when Hans got a moose, his first moose, on the first day of hunting season. Seems so long ago. There are no shots this year – very unusual. Shots in the woods – whether they be from Hans’ big hunting rifle, his .22, or whatever – that is one of the sounds I miss. A sound of a boy in the woods.
Soon winter will be upon us; we will start burning wood soon to heat the house and to cook. Hans’ chainsaw is sitting in the freezer shed right next to his brother’s saw, right where he left it that Saturday before the crash. Manfred and the boys had been cutting trees into firewood and stacking it to haul later. We will have one less saw running this winter. A chainsaw in the woods – another sound I am missing on this Fall day.
And then there is the noise that was Hans himself; the shouting, the laughing, the bizarre sounds he could make, running across the lawn issuing orders, tying a fox pelt or an empty plastic sled behind a goat and enjoying the ensuing chaos; the minor explosives he constructed and the belly laugh he erupted into after a successful detonation. Hans didn’t just enter the house when he came in. He crashed it and then filled it. When he was younger I had to remind him that the house was small and that he mustn’t use up more than his share of the available air space.
So now, I sometimes sit and listen to the quiet and remember the sounds of the past. I listen carefully for a noise that might be Hans. I hear only the chickadees and the squirrels and my own heart which, incredibly, keeps beating.