In the Silence

By Janet Gesme

Janet playing her cello with her daughter, Zeta, four years into recovery.
Photo by B. Lanphear

I think it is a familiar story for a lot of us: one day everything is okay—you have your health, family, friends, career . . . and then something happens and you watch it all slip away.

For me that “something” was a car crash. The physical injuries consisted of some pretty gnarly whiplash, a frozen left shoulder blade, and the right side of my pelvis was rotated down and out, resulting in a separated pelvic symphysis, damage to the SI joint and other ligaments that tend to hold a person together.

Sitting was excruciating, and walking became more and more difficult. For a good nine months I was deteriorating instead of getting better. I had played the viola professionally for twenty-nine years prior to the accident. My injuries forced me to release this key part of my identity.

Would my husband, the conductor of the symphony, still love me? I was not sure. I had become useless to him: musically, physically, I was a constant drain. How long could he stay with a woman who had turned into what seemed like a 95-year-old overnight?

I am grateful and amazed at the patience and love that my husband showed me throughout the years of slow, painful recovery. But he is not the only one . . .

Letting go of what you love is never easy. After giving my viola to a friend, after releasing what had been my self-worth, my talent, my place in this world, I kept seeing the same scene over and over:

I was standing in front of a closed door, staring with all my might. On the other side was my viola. I wanted so badly to have what was on the other side of that door! But gentle hands would take hold of my shoulders, turn me around, and a voice spoke into my heart, “Look! Look at this beautiful world, so full of wonder! Don’t waste your time staring at a closed door. Go seek out the blessings that have been prepared for you.”

Danney Gokey’s song, “Tell your heart to beat again,” spoke volumes to me with the simple text, “Yesterday’s a closing door, you don’t live there anymore. Say goodbye to where you’ve been and tell your heart to beat again.”

So limping along in my pelvis brace, unable to feel my right foot or turn my head, I searched for these blessings. I told my heart to beat through the tears. Most of my time, however, was spent in bed reading, which in turn opened up opportunities beyond my wildest dreams. But it would take years before those blessings were revealed.

The book that changed everything was Martin Schleske’s, “Der Klang,” (German for “The Sound”). I read about the trees that Martin, a master violin maker, uses to build overwhelmingly gorgeous, sweet-sounding instruments. This wood, these trees, live and grow in the harshest of conditions: barely enough soil, water, and light—their growth is painstakingly slow. But it is this slow growth that makes them beautiful. “The Sound” is found here, in these harsh conditions, in slow, silent growth.

Martin’s hands
Copyright 2019, J. Laszlo

After my accident, there was nothing I wanted more than to get better quickly. However, through these trees, God kept repeating: “I’m doing something. Slow. Slow. Easy does it.”

And so here we are, more than five years later. The miracle for me was that I got to translate Martin Schleske’s book! Definitely worth all of the pain and heartbreak.

People often ask me if I have recovered from the accident. Yes, I have! But my history is written deeply in my body: I will never be without pain. And yet I am stronger than I ever could have imagined possible. God can and will pull us through anything that comes our way.

Janet before the accident with her viola


Questions for reflection:

Take a few minutes to consider the following.

1. “In quietness and trust is your strength.” Isaiah 30:16. This was a hard lesson for me to learn! It is worth repeating: “In quietness and trust is your strength.” Have you gained strength through quiet times, through trust?

2. Even when I was not able to walk, I found myself running away from the peace being offered to me. “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee.” Isaiah 30:15-16

Have you ever rejected the rest that is offered to you and found yourself in a cycle of running away? How can we break this cycle?

3. “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up and show you compassion.” Isaiah 30:18

Let this compassion sink in. There is healing beyond measure for your soul. Breathe it in. Step into the light of grace. Find rest and strength in this Love.

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