Author: Sarah Heiskell

Gary Bachers was a talented pianist and worked as a doctor for 10 years, but he didn’t find his life’s work until after he had his stroke.

In 1987 at the age of 37, he suffered a massive stroke, which paralyzed the right side of his body and left him with aphasia.

“Aphasia affects a person’s ability to communicate,” according to the National Aphasia Association’s website. “The principal signs of aphasia are impairments in the ability to express oneself when speaking, trouble understanding speech, and difficulty with reading and writing.

The effects of aphasia can differ from person to person. Bachers still has the ability to read a newspaper and can understand conversations; he just cannot participate in them.

After his stroke, he picked up a colored pencil with his left hand and began practicing the stroke that would eventually lead him to a new career.

“It has become a passion for him; it’s his life’s work,” said Gabrielle Bachers. “It is his form of expression.”

What Bachers cannot say with words, he says with art.

“He was always very artistic,” Mrs. Bachers said. “He was a doctor, but he always had that creativity in him.”

Growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, as an only child, Bachers took piano lessons and participated in recitals anc competitions all the way through college.

“He was a wonderful pianist,” Mrs. Bachers said. “He still plays the piano with one hand, and it is amazing. If you’re not in the same room with him, you would never know.”

The stroke came as a complete surprise to Bachers’ family, because there was no history of stroke or heart disease in his family.

After his handicap forced him to discontinue his practice in New Boston, he began using art as a part of his own rehabilitation and therapy, Mrs. Bachers said.

“We just started this because we were desperate for him to do something,” she said. “After the stroke, he was naturally very depressed.”

Bacher’s wife and children continued to give him new things to try to keep him busy and take his mind off his disability. “He was so stubborn that he wouldn’t do it because he knew he couldn’t do it perfectly,” said Mrs. Bachers. He was so used to doing everything perfectly all the time.”

Eventually, he found a medium that he could control - colored pencils.

“We laugh sometimes when we look at the first things that he drew,” Mrs. Bachers said. “It took alot of work and a lot of encouragement to get him where he is today.”

When looking at Bachers’ current series, a theme clearly emerges. Full moons and leafless trees can be found in every piece. “Most of his work has always had the moon,” said Mrs. Bachers. “He can’t tell us exactly what he’s trying to say, be we’ve decided that the moon is universal and everyone can look at it all over the world and feel the same thing.”

In previous years, Bachers focused on large leafed flowers, Mrs. Bachers said - but then he started doing trees. “The trees started after a big ice storm we had. We were without electricity, and our property was just filled with trees, so we were living with a bunch of broken branches. After that, he started doing trees. We became so aware of how beautiful the trees were and how important they were to us.”

Every day, Bachers fills his morning and afternoon hours working on his art, said Mrs. Bachers. He spends up to three or four weeks on some of his larger works. “It is essentially his job. Nothing holds him back.”

After Bachers completes a piece, it is Mrs. Bachers job to give it a name. She interprets the work and decides on a name. He always gives his approval on the titles of his work. “I just wish he could tell us more,” she said. “My son and I talk, and he grunts and groans and can’t really express himself, so we can just imagine.”

Mrs. Bachers has worked with her husband since he started his family practice and is continuing that tradition by framing his artwork and scheduling showings. “It’s wonderful for the kids to see their dad not give up, ” said Mrs. Bachers. “He had to change careers, but he’s doing wonderful in his new career.”

click here to go to Gary’s website.