26″What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light. What you hear in whispers, proclaim from the rooftops.”
This one verse alone sums up the purpose of this blog. The Lord blessed me with a gift that I allowed to stay hidden for years, sharing only with those closest to me and those I was certain would not reject me for it. I was blessed with a gift to write clearly and passionately about all that the Lord has done for me. But instead of openly proclaiming His wondrous love, I kept it to myself, afraid of what people would say about me. I was afraid to be labeled as a zealot, a preachy, obnoxious, in-your-face, holier-than-thou shrew. Or at least that’s the excuse I used to justify my lack of action. Honestly, I was ashamed to be so bold in my faith as to share with the world what God shared with me in private. I liked being quietly faithful, not bothering anyone, not stirring up trouble, not taking on the dreaded labels of “religious”, “churchy”, or “too Catholic”.
Looking back on my attitude makes me sad and gives me hope at the same time. Sad because I denied who I was and what I was gifted to become. Hopeful, because I am breaking out of that denial and I am becoming the woman I was gifted to be.
So what changed? The Lord blessed me with a miracle I would not dare to ask of Him. He restored my sight – physically and spiritually. In a single instance, He spoke to me in the darkness, at the deepest reaches of my soul, and granted me the courage to speak in the light and proclaim His whispers from the housetops.
On December 7, 2007, a typical Friday morning, I was at work and noticed that I could not see properly out of my left eye. Denial set in instantly, along with cold hard fear. I had never had anything like this before but I tried to tell myself it was just a migraine coming on or the stress of the ongoing divorce proceedings getting to me. I was seeing gray streaks running across my field of vision and there was pain all around the eye. I waited through the weekend, hoping a migraine would set in and prove that it was nothing more serious than that. By Monday, it was much worse and I called my eye doctor.
Seven doctors and one MRI later, it was Christmas. I had been told they didn’t think I had MS, but they wanted a second MRI to confirm that diagnosis. They also wanted a look at what they told me was a tumor on the optic nerve. By now the vision in my left eye was labeled on the visual field tests as a total loss. I could see out of it, but barely and the colors were all wrong. Red was black, white created a starburst effect, and yellows and oranges washed out to pastels. On Christmas Eve, when I glanced down at my five-year-old son, who was sitting on the kneeler by my left knee, I could not see his face.
After Christmas, I had the second MRI and after a five day agonizing wait for results, was told that the suspected tumor was a severe inflammation of one of the torsional eye muscles. There was also an inflammation of the fat tissue behind the eye. The two were pushing the optic nerve out of place and also compressing it, thus causing the pain, vision loss, and color loss.
The treatment was a massive dose of Prednisone, a wonder drug that has the power to turn me into a fast-talking, foul-tempered, short-fused, emotionally unstable witch. It also allowed me to go three to four days at a time without sleep. I finally caved after the second week and requested something to help me sleep. I was given Ambien. With Ambien, I could take a tiny pill and stay up for an hour or so making lunches, writing checks, signing permission slips, calling my estranged husband and the best part it all was that I did not remember any of it. My mother and sister teased me about the Ambien blackouts. They also took my car keys at night.
The unfortunate part of this treatment was that I was on it from January 1st until February 29th. The fact that no one dropped a house on me during those two months is probably a miracle unto itself. But house-dropping aside, it worked. My vision improved drastically but did not return to normal. I had noticed some decline in my right eye, but was told it could be due to the Prednisone. The only way know if the drug was causing the problem in the right eye was to come off it slowly. I joked with the doctors that their game plan was to “come off the Prednisone and pray”. Not funny, that was actually the plan.
Through all of this, I was surrounded by family, friends, and a faith community that enveloped me in prayers, hugs, and offers of assistance. I found myself unable to see clearly and yet I could see clearly the very face of Christ in those around me. Just before Christmas, I went to confession and found that I while I could not see the beautiful stained glass windows in the church, I could see the stains on my soul with a clarity I had never known. In that confessional, my pastor told me that losing my sight was my greatest blessing. He was so frighteningly and prophetically right.
On February 29,2008, I stopped the medication. I was told two things: the nerve could be permanently damaged, never returning to normal and that this could recur, at which point they would start looking at more serious causes such as lymphoma, lupus, and a number of other diseases. I made plans to come back in April and crossed my fingers.
My vision remained stable for about a month. Then it began declining slowly in both eyes. This time there was also a constant pain on the top of my head, about the size of a half-dollar. There was also pain whenever I moved my eyes. I told myself it was the flu, stress, being tired, maybe a migraine. Finally, I reached the point that I needed to know what I facing. I saw my primary doctor on a Tuesday, telling him I had an appointment with the neuro-opthalmologist on Friday. He told me not to wait that long. I saw the neuro-opthalmologist the next day and had an MRI, my fourth, on that Friday. The whole process was starting over. By the following week, I had lost enough peripheral vision that I nearly had tunnel vision. I also started seeing double. The left eye was going dark and the right eye was seeing black streaks like I had seen in the left one in December. They told me a biopsy was most likely the next course of action. Muscle inflammation doesn’t spread to the other eye or cause the pain on the top of my head.
I was due to make my Cursillo weekend on May 17th and my sponsor told me repeatedly that I could wait until September. I insisted that I was supposed to go one this one. There was such a feeling of urgency in me that I could not explain but by then I was learning to trust the pull of the Holy Spirit. I assured everyone that I would be fine, somehow.
May 9, 2008, I attended a Healing Mass. I was not ready to tell my mother that I could no longer safely drive. As I left, she said to me, “I don’t know why you go to these. If you can see when you get back, I’ll believe in all this.”
“Mom, I go to just let God hold me and love me.” I could see she didn’t buy that so I just left it alone.
I quietly called my estranged husband and asked him to drive me. I drove to his house and he drove to the church, which was in the next town over. As I sat in pew, I kept my eyes closed through nearly the entire Mass. The double vision was making me nauseous and dizzy. The pain on the top of my head was now excruciating, as though someone were forcing a railroad spike through my skull. As the Mass ended and the Healing service began, I leaned over to Bob and told him, “If I hit the floor before Father Roy lays hands on me, I am not resting in the Spirit, I am having a stroke, so call an ambulance.” He asked me if I wanted to leave and I seriously considered that perhaps I should go to the hospital.
I had been praying since March “not my will but Thy will be done”. That night in the church it was a mantra for me. I sang along with the music with my eyes closed and this mantra running through me all the while. As I sat there waiting to go up to the altar to be prayed over, I was nearly overcome by the smell of roses and the strong sense of a presence near me. Startled, I opened my eyes and looked around, but there was no one anywhere near me. I had been reading “Story of a Soul” by St. Therese of Lisieux and all throughout Lent and Eastertide, she was speaking directly to me through her writings. Now, as I was at my lowest point, completely surrendering my independence, admitting my weakness, and asking not for the return of my sight, but for the strength to be humbled, she was standing beside me.
Finally, I went forward to the altar and no sooner did Father Roy lay hands on me, then I fell back and rested in the Lord’s Spirit. As Father Roy lay hands on the woman next to me, his robes brushed my leg and it was as though an electric shock ran through me. I heard a voice say to me “Your faith has healed you, my daughter.” I have no idea how long I lay there but when I got up, I was still in agony and my vision was just as awful. I talked with a few friends who promised to pray for me, found Bob and told him to take me home.
As we rode home, I had my hands over my face to block out the oncoming headlights. Physically I was in agony but spiritually I felt so peaceful. We stopped for a bite to eat and then after reaching his house, I took the wheel and somehow managed to get myself home. I drove with my left hand covering my left eye and steering with my right hand. Exhausted, I went straight up to bed.
The next morning, as soon as I opened my eyes, I realized I was no longer in pain. I also realized that my peripheral vision was back and the sunlight looked evenly bright in both eyes. I sat bolt upright and grabbed my glasses. Looking around and even out the window, I could see normally for the first time since December! I attend Saturday morning Mass every week and as I drove to the church that morning, I could see every blade of grass, every petal on the flowers, every leaf on the trees. Over and over, I kept repeating “Thank you, Lord! Thank you!” I am still repeating that to this day.
By Sunday morning, I was confident enough to tell my mother that I could see again. I started telling everyone and anyone who would listen to me. I went to the neuro-opthalmologist as scheduled two weeks later and the visual field tests came back perfect in both eyes for the first time. Even in December, there had been a loss in the right eye, but with the left eye nearly blind; no one paid much attention to the right.
In between the healing and the confirmation from the doctors, I made my Cursillo as planned. I was so very aware of how blessed I was and how loved I was by my God, which made for an incredibly powerful four days. While I was there, my sponsor had written to me that I needed to find a way to open up and share my gift of writing with as many people as I could. But how?
After I came home, it suddenly hit me that a blog would be a great venue to start. This is by no means where I will stop. I have plans to complete a spiritual memoir, which I already had in the works. I am also putting together a program to teach children and adults the art of journaling, especially about their spiritual lives.
The gifts that I needed: a new insight into myself, the courage to accept that new insight, and the boldness to share it publicly, all these were given to me that night. The Lord sent His messenger Therese to me months earlier and she showed me the way to be humble in His sight. I may never see my writings in print, but then neither did St. Therese. I am no saint, but maybe in my real and broken imperfection my words will touch someone else’s life.