The Story of The Quiet Room
This collection was born from an illness. During the summer of 2001, Molly began to experience pain in her face. It turned out that it was caused by a brain tumor. We were told the operation to remove it would be difficult, and Molly put together a few things she knew would help her get through her hospital stay.
She filled a small swatch of fabric with seeds from a cottonwood tree, a favorite smell from her childhood in Washington State. She created a display of photos of friends and family to hang in her recovery room.
She also brought these tunes. She had recently made a compilation of our most healing music to give to friends and others facing difficulties. But almost before she had time to pass it on to others, she was the one in need, heading into a hospital for brain surgery.
We were told the operation would be difficult, but it turned out to be far worse. After more than 11 hours of surgery, the doctor came out pale and exhausted, and told me and James, Molly’s brother, that if Molly made it through the night, she would have a chance.
A chance of what? I asked.
A chance of surviving, he said.
Molly made it through that long night. The next day I bought a boom box to play Molly’s compilation in the intensive care room where she lay in a coma. Some of the tunes were old classics, such as “Shenandoah” and “Gentle Annie” by Stephen Foster. Most were our own compositions, such as “Ashokan Farewell” and “The Lover’s Waltz.” Each tune seemed to express what was needed: peace and calm, love and hope, all built upon a foundation of resilience.
We were warned that the Molly we knew might not be the Molly who emerged from surgery. Shortly after she came out of the coma, James and I went to her room with our fiddles and played “The Blue River Waltz.” Molly had not yet spoken and we worried about how much damage the surgery had done. At one point, James played a C chord—not the wrong chord, but not quite the right one, either.
The next time we approached that beat in the music, Molly said, “A minor.”
Those were two of the happiest words I’d ever heard. Molly was still here.
Molly has said her recovery felt like being reborn. Over a period of days and weeks, she began
talking, recognizing faces, moving her arms, and taking her first steps. We’d brought in the music for Molly, but we soon realized it touched a much wider circle. Doctors, nurses, orderlies, and physical therapists often entered our rooms tight and tense, but as they heard the music, you could almost see their stress melt. Molly’s ordeal often overwhelmed me, but the music calmed me, and it seemed to do the same for anyone who came calling during our hard times.
While Molly was recuperating, sleeping in long stretches, I often went to what was called The Quiet Room in the hospital. No one was ever there, so I played my fiddle. One afternoon I heard a new tune in my head. It sounded like a Scottish air, as does “Ashokan Farewell.” In the last bars of what became “The Quiet Room,” the music reaches upward never fails to bring me back to the moment of Molly’s reawakening. The title seemed the perfect name for the tune and the collection.
Molly is now herself again, with a few new wrinkles, like all of us. And in the years since her operation, she’s given copies of this compilation to people in need, to help them through their difficult times. It’s meant to help you heal, soothe your soul, and lift your spirits.
Be well, Jay & Molly
PS—A book that helped us through this ordeal was Help Me to Heal by Bernie Siegel and Yosaif August. We met Yosaif for the first time during a walk in the woods behind our home the day before Molly’s surgery. He brought us a copy of the book that evening. We recommend it highly.