Loss Paralleled

I stood at the desk to buy a cinema ticket.

“The film will be subtitled, won’t it?” I checked.


“That’s good, because I’m deaf.”

“Oh, well these might help.”

And she proffered a pair of headphones used for listening to the audio description of the film.

There had been blind people in the queue before me, so perhaps the sales assistant was on auto pilot as far as offering headphones was concerned.

I don’t know. 

But that was the first instance of many that evening when I would experience parallels being made between sight loss and hearing loss.

Between Darkness and Silence.


The film I went to see was Notes on Blindness, a true story based on the diary excerpts of John Hull.

John lost his sight when he was in his forties.

At one point, he says:

“Every time I wake up, I lose my sight.”

He can see in his dreams.

I write, in Still Emily, ‘I can hear in my dreams, waking with a shock when I realise that I can’t in real life.’

Darkness and Silence.


A poignant moment amongst many for me was a scene in which John’s son is reading aloud.

Pointing to the page, he asks, “Daddy, what’s that?”

And John can’t see what he’s pointing at.

I remember a time when my goddaughter turned to me.

“Aunty Emily, what’s that noise?”

I couldn’t hear it.

In the film, John says, “The discovery that you’re useless is not a nice discovery for any father to make.”

It’s not nice for a godmother, either.

Darkness and Silence.


John spent his childhood in Australia and, as a blind adult, revisited Melbourne.

“I expected Melbourne to be there.”

On previous visits, he’d been able to see it.

I write, in Still Emily, ‘I was surprised to find that I could no longer hear the car radio…surprised to find that I really was deaf.’

John puts it well:

“In that moment, a world is lost.  I myself was lost.”

I write, ‘In losing my hearing, I felt that I’d lost a big part of myself.’

Darkness and Silence.


There is a scene in the film where John stands in an open doorway. 

It is raining outside and, to the sightless man, the rain is a gateway to understanding the world around him.

He stands, taking in the smells and sounds that the rain brings, clues about things he cannot see.

For a while, he is aware of his surroundings.

And he wishes rain could follow him everywhere.

I often wish there was a rain equivalent shadowing me.

Helping make sense of sound that doesn’t reach me.

Darkness and Silence.


Near the beginning of the film is a scene with John, his wife and their baby son.

The baby smiles.

“John, he’s smiling at you.”


For me, this was heart breaking.

He had to be told that his son was smiling at him.

A smile should be direct in its delivery, not diverted.


I remember my niece throwing her arms around my neck, burying her face in my shoulder and, for the first time, uttering the words,

“I love you.”

I remember it because I saw someone tell me afterwards,

“She said she loves you.”

I’d missed it.

And I was devastated.

“I love you,” should be direct in its delivery, not diverted.

In that moment, her meaning was lost in my inability to receive it as I wanted.


But, crucially, that didn’t mean her meaning was not there.


John says there came a time when he had to choose whether to “live in reality or nostalgia.”

I can relate to that. 

In Still Emily, I write, ‘I was ready to let go.  To release shadows of my past. To stop clinging to what was never coming back.  Or at least, I was ready to try.’

Darkness and Silence.


John grapples with, as he puts it, how to retain the fullness of his humanity.

I refer to it as a question of retaining my identity.

But both amount to the same thing.

Darkness and Silence meet.

Who am I now?

Now a vital part of me is not a part of me at all?


Back to this question of living in reality or nostalgia.

For me, finally giving away my flute was key to letting go of my past.

In the film, I think letting go was symbolised by John’s glasses.

At one point, someone asks him why he wears glasses when he can’t see?

The answer is he feels naked without them.

He needs them.

As I needed my flute, redundant though it was.

Towards the end, mulling something over, John absentmindedly removes his glasses.

Deep in thought, he puts them on the table.

“Now, let me see….”


The reality was, he didn’t need his glasses, and never would.

Just as I couldn’t hear my flute, and never would.


In letting go of the nostalgia of the past, we are free to discover the reality of the present.


The film ends with the longed for rain, the gateway to understanding, pouring into John’s house.

Cascading over the centre of his existence.

Darkness and Silence.

They have a lot in common.

‘There are always rainbows somewhere in the rain.’ Still Emily

2 thoughts on “Loss Paralleled”

  1. Just catching up with your blogs as we have been away on holiday. I thought about you on the plane actually as quite a few of the films were available with subtitles which I had never noticed before!

    1. Oh that’s good to know, I never try and watch films on flights because I am so used to them having no subtitles – glad that’s changing. Hope you had a great holiday 🙂

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