Being blind is not an albatross around my neck…it is an opportunity for growth.
Not my first reaction to the diagnosis, however. But that is how I feel about my vision loss today.
Today is my anniversary. Two years ago today, I suffered vision loss.
You know the passage… Mark’s gospel, chapter 10, verse 5, we hear Jesus asking the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man answered him: “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!”
I wanted Jesus to ask me that question, so I may answer, too: “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!”
Though I have been able to continue to do many of the things I once loved to do (but in new and different ways), would not be opposed to have my vision restored. It happened quickly. It happened unexpectedly. No pain. No warning. Those few moments that day forever changed my life.
Some background – I had an acute closed angle glaucoma attack in 1999, and because of that, I lost vision in my left eye which left me legally blind in that eye. On February 9, 2017, I developed non-anterior ischemic optic neuropathy in the right eye, which caused significant optic nerve damage. What I have left is severe visual field loss in the right eye and decreased vision which left me legally blind in my right eye. Ugh
When this happened, my first thoughts included those of my family – I would not be able to see my granddaughters dance again on stage…How was I going to care, support and love my family in the many ways I already did? I would not be able to see my youngest son kiss his bride for the first time as husband and wife…. I would not be able to see my grandchildren walk across the stage to receive their diplomas….I would not be able to take my mother-in-law to her doctor’s appointments s….I would no longer be the emergency contact for my grandchildren…. I would not be able to see my grandson play football or my granddaughter field hockey….I would not be able to be the same wife, mother, grandmother I was before I lost my vision.
Then other thoughts and questions – How was I going to minister to my congregation? How was I going to officiate the wedding and the funeral and the baptism I had the week after this happened? How was I going to preach, to teach the children’s bell choir, teach confirmation, carry out pastoral care visits, bible studies, animal blessings? How was I going to stay overnight at the shelter and help with our street neighbors? I would not be able to be the same pastor, colleague, teacher I was before I lost my vision.
Then more….Wait….How will I read (I love to read!)? How will I take pictures (I love taking pictures!) ? Will I be able to see a sunrise or a sunset? I am a little over the top when it comes to chasing butterflies across the meadow…crawling across the lawn to find the right shot of the bluejays and cardinals sharing the same space underneath the bird feeders…..waiting for just the right moment when the butterfly rests gently on the Gerber daisy…..My passion for taking pictures will be a thing of the past.
The very thought of ‘not doing’ was painful, sad and frightening and brought me to my knees in tears. I grieved. Nothing…nothing…would ever be the same again.
I was uncertain what to do at first. Uncertain what to say to anyone. This was a new journey; a new path. After all, I could not even put the toothpaste on my toothbrush! I could not even see my face in the mirror in order to brush my hair! I could make a choice: embrace the blindness…or not. Trust God…or not. I decided to keep doing – doing the best I could while seeking the appropriate assistance and tools I needed to help me keep doing, especially all the things I loved.
Jesus has not restored my vision. My vision loss is permanent. While I have overcome hurdles these past two years, I have not let my vision loss define me. Oh, I sometimes stumble, trip when I walk on sidewalks, bump into doorways, fumble with my key in the door….. I pray and hope and cry and laugh and question and above all…still able to love…I am these things ….because God’s grace and love are woven into my story as it unfolds each day….am thankful.
Next time, I will share more of the story….