My nana went blind. Cataracts. I remember the day when my mother told me that the doctors could not help her. I cried and cried out of fear for her, sadness and overwhelming compassion. How could you live in this world and not be able to see? Well, I guess many of us do that even when our eyesight is perfectly fine!
Sometimes Nana would come to stay. I remember I lost her once. I searched the streets and scoured the neighbourhood wondering how she had ‘escaped’ from my apartment? And as I was ringing the police I heard a little snort-like snore. She had found my bed and big white fluffy doona (duvet) and had completely disappeared into it! No bumps or lumps…..a tiny little figure buried alive by duck- down and feathers.
She smoked too and it would be exasperating to find her attempting to light her cigarettes. I was always utterly amazed how she never set her hair alight nor the curtains for that matter. Of course, when people met her they would shout at her. Why is it we assume that people are deaf when they are blind. When screamed at, Nana would politely respond “I may not be able to see you dear, but I can certainly hear you”!
But the sadness for me was to pick her up on the weekends and find her sitting in her little room all alone facing a wall and patiently waiting for me to take her out. As she became older, feebler and a little more vague, I found it better to leave her in the car and park it somewhere in the sunshine. I would buy a cup of tea and piece of cake and together we would sit chatting, enjoying the warmth of the sun and each other’s company. She once said to me “oh, thank you dear, what a lovely restaurant”.
How much do we take our eyesight for granted? And do we use it well? Today I look out on the beautiful Chinese elm that hugs my balcony – turning yellow, orange and gold in the Autumn sunshine. My heart leaps out of my chest when I pause to be so aware of the beauty with which I am surrounded. I can see, (albeit with multi-focals) and I can go anywhere I want to; to observe, partake and appreciate what this extraordinarily- attractive world can offer me.
One late night, not so long ago, I caught the tail-end of a BBC production on the story of ‘Tetiny’ and Dr. Ruit’s, work high up in the Himalaya. Nepal is close to my heart as is the plight of those who live there, and Fred Hollows is one of the great men whose legacy I honour. Make yourself a cup of tea. Watch this gorgeous story about Fred Hollow’s protégée and friend Dr. Ruit and their efforts to eradicate blindness amongst the world’s poorest through innovative cataract surgery technique.
Better still…..for your week’s café latte fix you can give someone back their sight!
Of course, there is unnecessary blindness in all developing countries….throughout Africa, South East Asia, Australia, The Pacific, China ….everywhere……
Yes, it can be said by those who can see, so many in blindness have given us much. For example, Andrea Boccelli ignites the fire in those who love music and Helen Keller in those who love words…..
However, in saying that, these words from Helen Keller will always stay with me……
“Death is no more than passing from one room to another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room, I shall be able to see”.
Four out of five people who are blind don’t need to be…
Let’s SEE what we can do…
(Photos sources: Fred Hollows and Dr. Ruit’s sites).