Gerda Wirick: My Mom

The Friendly Shark, 2015 by Gerda Wirick. Acrylic painting on cotton canvas, 16" x 20"

The Friendly Shark, 2015 by Gerda Wirick. Acrylic painting on cotton canvas, 16" x 20"

Today, I'm honoured to feature Gerda Wirick (my Mom), an artist and musician. She is truly an inspiration. Earlier this year she lost all hearing – completely and suddenly, and was suffering from dizziness and "roaring" sounds in her ears (tinnitus). She was completely deaf for the first half of 2016. Then in June she had a cochlear implant installed – basically a computer processor that helps her brain to "hear".

"I really have no option here. It's move forward with bravery and courage; that's all there is." – Gerda Wirick, June 22, 2016

Where do your creative inspirations come from?

I have given this much thought. I believe that "love" is the greatest source of all energy / creativity so when I see beauty I feel love and joy. I look at the sky and am inspired by the beauty of it, and it evokes many feelings of "want to create." I am drawn to all water so there is much energy and beauty there.

Can you please describe the music in your head that you sometimes "hear"?

The music was a wonderful part of my brain's activity in the absence of hearing. I would often hear wonderful familiar melodies such as Silent Night sung in beautiful choral style. Also, Land of Hope and Glory – the music of Elgar, which I love. I do sing a lot so perhaps that is the reason. Now that I have the implant activated I am not hearing much music any longer, and I mourn and continue to mourn the loss of music, since music sounds mostly like noise to me now. But I am told to practice listening to familiar music – which I do, and I play the familiar music on the piano daily, and hope and pray for the music to come back to me.

Could you please describe the experience of having your cochlear implant turned on in June 2016?

The day I had the cochlear implant activated I was full of trepidation. What if it does not work? What if I went through all that trauma of the surgery and it does not work?

The moment I heard sounds from my programming I was super elated. I wanted to establish with Kim (my audiologist) that this meant "success" and she was not yet willing to confirm that; so I had to wait for the implant and processor to be connected to see what I would hear and more importantly what I would actually comprehend...

I think it took 10 seconds or 20 – I was hearing "toy trains" and wondering about that when I looked at Kim and noticed that she was moving her mouth – and actually I could hear and understand what she was saying. It was the defining moment! Wow! She was talking and I could hear her?! I was totally shocked and filled with joy. After 5 months of not hearing anything at all – I went from feeling isolated and cut off from the world to feeling connected again. I will never forget the loveliness of that feeling.

Could you please share how losing your hearing (profoundly) 5 months ago changed your perspective on life?

 The short answer is that I am so profoundly grateful for the hearing that I am not able to feel sorry for myself any longer. Although now, 2 months later, I still struggle on occasion with the deep sense of loss of hearing. Feeling sorry for myself does creep back because I am still essentially deaf and when I am in a group I often hear nothing and feel isolated and frustrated.

I always remind myself of the miracle of hearing and the intense joy of it, and the knowledge of future improvement. Every morning when I put on my cochlear Implant I feel the shockingly lovely thrill of hearing again.

I think that my experience has taught me so much. The love and joy is there for the taking, but I have to make it a priority to make each day special and to experience all the love, joy and peace that possibly can. It has to be a conscious reaching daily even hourly. Maybe it will become easier in time but at this time it is often effort. How to get through each day and make it meaningful and rewarding? I also realize that I have to make difficult choices at times to accomplish this goal, such as not allowing toxic elements to bring me down or make me fearful. Positive thinking, prayer and mindfulness all play a bigger role now.

Now that you are participating more fully in the world of "hearing", what are some things you are most looking forward to?

Spending quality time with my grandchildren as they grow, spending time with friends and going to concerts and theater again. I long for musical appreciation again and am thankful for the ability to have a conversation and the basic ability to hear. In the future there will likely be huge improvements due to programming and my brain adapting, so I know things will be better. I am deeply grateful for the wonderful family and friends who stayed with me, prayed for me, and supported me in so many different ways.