When There are no Words

By Mark E. Smith

As a formally-trained, working writer of 25 years, I’m not going to put on any airs – this writing stuff is insanely easy. Sure, it takes heart and time. But, it’s truly just a matter of stringing words together.
However, I’ve long found that when I’m not writing, but living, I’m sometimes frustrated by the lack of words in existence that express our deepest feelings.

I often have experiences with my wife and daughters that are so deep and profound that there are no words to express them. Sure, I’ve tried, but such deep feelings escape the English vocabulary and dictionary. You’ve likely been at that point, where your feelings transcend words, where it’s like following the ocean and sky out, onto a pier, but you reach the end of the pier and the ocean and sky keep going. Maybe you’ve been in love so deeply that I love you hasn’t nearly conveyed the depth of your love. Maybe you’ve watched your child sleep and as much as you try to find words, there are none for the emotions you feel welled up inside you toward the love that you have for your child. Or, maybe you’ve had a loved one with an illness and your empathy for him or her was so deep that words couldn’t express the pain that you felt in your heart.

As a husband, father, brother, and friend, I’ve been in all of those circumstances. I am a person before I am a writer and while I could muster up swirls of sincere words, they don’t scratch the surface of the depth of love I feel in those moments. I want my wife, daughters, siblings, and friends to know the depths of my feelings for them. However, the words – there are none of such depth.

For me, the only solution I’ve found is to reach out. In those moments when words don’t exist to express the depth of my love, I keep the shortcoming to myself and cuddle up to my wife, play with our 10-year-old, or call our 21-year-old on the phone. And, it works, my depth of love conveyed in gestures, without the limitations of words.

I was on the receiving end of this process not too long ago. I have a dear friend who’s a doctor. When I was in the hospital, he came to visit and he was shocked by my grave condition. He, who is never at a loss for words, was speechless. However, he sat by my bed quietly and held my hand. I felt how deep his love was for me. Words weren’t needed.

What I’ve learned by being a person before a writer is that words aren’t the only way to express the depth of our love for others – and it’s ultimately good that language is more limited than our hearts.