Monday, January 9, 2012

What did you see today?

What did you see today?

  “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”  Jonathan Swift

Seeing the historical sights of ancient Rome, studying the intricate paintings on the Vatican ceiling, admiring the colorful reef fish in Hawaii, watching an active volcano erupt in the night.....  Some might say you require vision to see these things.  And I would say, that is true.  But do you need eyesight to see the soul?  Do you need eyesight to experience love and the touch of a friend?  How do we see these things?   The intangible things.  The gifts of life.

My husband Tom is my rock.  He has always had the perfect vision in our family - the 20/20 vision and the proverbial "eyes like a hawk".  Nothing escaped his sight.  He could see the eagle nesting in a far away tree, the sea turtle bobbing among the waves, the tiny shellfish hiding in a coral reef and the far away castle set on a hill.  He can frame pictures in his minds eye and shoot them quickly with his canon camera, resulting in images beyond my perception or vision.  His pictures tell stories of people, places and nature.

The gift of sight is precious and dear.  We never realize how much that is true until a day comes and we lose some of what we had.  I never thought such a day would come in my life. 

The day started like any other and progressed so normally.  It ended like most of our days do -- at the health club working off the stress of the day before we head home to relax and recharge for tomorrow.  I was startled when I walked out of the gym and realized that Tom had tried calling me repeatedly while I was inside.  The sight of so many missed calls within a quick timeframe made my heart skip a quick beat and I hit "redial" as quickly as I could.

"Are you still at the gym?"  Tom asked.  When I affirmed that I was he said, "can you bring me home?  I can't see out of my left eye and I don't think I should drive.".  "What?" I exclaimed.  "Are you sure??  What happened?"  But that's just it - nothing "happened".    There was nothing tangible that Tom could point to, he simply lost sight in his left eye while riding the exercise bike.  That's it.  No pain, no flash of light, no discomfort, no other symptoms.  Nothing.  How does this happen?

As we met with the eye specialist the next day we both felt confident that his sight would return soon.  Surely this was a misunderstanding of some sort - there had to be a miracle drop that would bring back his vision.  After all - we sent a man to the moon and we can transplant hearts and perform other medical miracles.  This should  be simple!

But as the meeting progressed and the doctor's face became grim, I felt my confidence beginning to fade.  This was taking too long and he was running too many tests.  I'll never forget what happened next.  Dr. K showed us the pictures of the inside of Tom's eye - pictures he'd captured on his high tech computer system.  He grimly explained the blood clot that had burst causing damage to the optic nerves and showed us the outline on the computer image.  He sat back and looked at us, his face stoic and unmoving.  We hesitated to ask the question - yet it begged to be asked and sat larger then an elephant in the small examining room.  "Is the vision loss permanent?"  I heard Tom ask softly.  I saw the doctor nod once, then say "Yes, I am afraid that it is."  My mind began screaming inside as I struggled to remain calm on the outside.  My husband and I were in shock as the doctor began to explain the situation and what had happened.  He then sent us on to the hospital to check in and begin a series of tests to attempt to uncover the cause of this blood clot.  We numbly left his office and headed to the emergency room, not sure what to say or where to begin.
It was a long weekend, full of tests and MRI's, scans and ultrasounds.  In the end, nothing was uncovered and no cause was determined.  But the verdict remained the same - the vision loss was permanent. 

The loss of sight to someone as active as Tom will be difficult.  Immediately we wondered if he could still SCUBA dive, play golf, drive a car and of course, take pictures?  As we pondered the situation and began to come to grips with it, God began to reveal marvelous and wonderful things to us.  Friends began to pour out their love and sympathy as word spread.  Our children were there non-stop, demonstrating their love and commitment to their father and friend.  Our granddaughter climbed into Papa's hospital bed and snuggled with him to watch cartoons and share his lunch.  Life and love poured out to us in more ways then we could imagine.  And none of it needed to be seen - all of it was felt.  Genuinely and truly, felt.

Tom is a people person.  He has the gift of seeing beyond the exterior of others.  He can discern their spirit and he makes people laugh with his quick and friendly nature.  He knows no strangers, no matter where we go.  Everyone likes Tom and everyone gravitates toward him and his natural and radiant personality.  He sees people beyond their physical presence - he sees their hearts and he seeks to know them beyond what is obvious to others.

I have realized something so precious through all of this.  Losing eye sight in one eye is difficult and disappointing - but it's truly not the loss of vision.  Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others - the heart, the soul and the inner beauty of mankind.   Tom has always done that anyway - this sight loss merely allows him the opportunity to use his true vision more completely, in travels and at home.

Our extraordinary travels will continue - for we are an ordinary couple but we seek the extraordinary adventures in life and this does not require 20/20 vision in both eyes.  It requires eyes for the soul and a longing to see past the exterior, allowing for God's vision to overtake our own, creating a new sight for our own tired eyes.  Each day we are given a new vision but we must choose to see it.  What did you see today?

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