I am alone on this night road, with nothing for company but the hum of the tires, the purr of the engine, and the transmissions – some as strong as if the speaker were sitting next to me, some barely audible beneath the static – fading in and out of the radio lying on the passenger seat. 

This night will be an exercise in listening, a listening that feels almost as futile as the continued waiting for an answer to a seemingly unanswered prayer.

The calls float and flutter gently, like flower petals drifting to the ground.

K-9-M-I-X, K-9-M-I-X, K-9-M-I-X; this is K-D-9-K-K-Y, calling K-9-M-I-X.

The radio falls silent. 

My car enters a cottony bank of fog. I know that the road is still there only because I know it’s there. 

This night will be an exercise in faith, a faith that feels almost as uncertain as the continued waiting for an answer to a seemingly unanswered prayer.

The green “receive” light of my handheld transceiver blips to life as KD9KKY keys the repeater to announce “Net control, nothing heard from K9MIX.”

Net control acknowledges KD9KKY’s failed attempt to contact K9MIX and invites the next ham on his list to call K9MIX. 

One by one, each ham calls. One by one, each ham reports:

Nothing heard. 

Nothing heard. 

Nothing heard. 

This night will be an exercise in patience, a patience that feels as lonely as the continued waiting for an answer to a seemingly unanswered prayer. 

Large gatherings are out of the question, but hams can still convene as we always have: via the airwaves. Yet our gathering tonight is not merely a response to the pandemic. It’s a traditional ceremony of farewell to a ham radio operator whose key – the device used for sending Morse Code – has fallen silent to the ears of those of us who remain on this side of life. We gather on the Silent Key’s local repeater; we open the net, asking casual repeater traffic to put their conversations on hold until the Memorial Net is over; we take turns transmitting a last call to the Silent Key; we close the net; we continue about the business of our respective nights.

This night will be an exercise in celebrating life, in spite of death. It’s a celebration that sometimes feels as impossible as the continued waiting for an answer to a seemingly unanswered prayer. 

Net control has the strongest signal; his transmission, the final one of the net, falls crisply and clearly into the warm, dark, waiting silence of my car:

K-9-M-I-X, K-9-M-I-X, K-9-M-I-X, this is W-9-North America, calling K-9-M-I-X.

The silence returns. 

The green “receive” light of my handheld transceiver blips to life as Net Control keys the repeater to reiterate one final time: 

“Nothing heard.”

But was there really nothing heard on this night?

Were there, perhaps, tiny somethings to be heard in the small silences between the beginning and end of each of this night’s brief transmissions?

There were. 

There was companionship.
There was a sense of comfort at being together to remember this Silent Key.
There was delighted surprise at hearing from hams who hadn’t been on the air in a long time.
There was frustration at static-filled and broken transmissions.
There was sorrow.
There was anger at the never-ending pandemic that took this Silent Key from us.
There was happiness at the memory of a life well lived.
There was a slight tension: what if the unthinkable happened and K9MIX responded?
There was reverence.
There was a sense of wonder and awe at the power of our tiny little transmissions bouncing through the night and the fog, connecting us during a time of un-connectedness. 

There was much to be heard in the nothing heard, but only if I listened with the ears of my heart. 

Lent is a time of listening, even when it feels like a time of nothing heard. This year, in particular, as we grow weary of unkind realities, Lent may seem like nothing more than a tiring extension of a too-long period of nothing heard. 

But what if we could listen with the ears of our hearts? 

Are we ready to hear beyond the nothing(s) heard?

– Lori Randall (KE8GFZ)

A song to accompany this week’s reflection: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvZbGm0Dc7U