As he was losing vision in one eye, he also felt a darkness descending upon his soul. Was there hope for him?

- Posted on May 1, 2015

An older man taking an eye test

I was never going to get better. In fact, I was going to get worse. A vein attached to my retina had hemorrhaged. An occlusion, the doctor called it. The pressure from the blood slowly building up behind my right eye was nearly unbearable.

Laser surgery would relieve the pain but not stem the loss of vision in my eye. In time, macular degeneration would cause my left eye to go blind as well. It was already starting. Darkness was taking over. Just when I thought a new life was beginning.

My wife, Shirley, and I had retired and were finishing up our dream house. I’d started my own bluegrass group, Uncle Sam & the Gospel Gang. These were supposed to be my golden years. Golden? Black was more like it. Blind.

And the darkness ran deeper than my eyesight. It blotted my soul. I’d always been a faithful man, but if there was hope for me, I couldn’t see it. All I heard was, “There’s nothing more to be done, Mr. Vaught.”

It was April, time for the town’s annual ramp festival, celebrating the wild onions that grow abundantly around these parts in the spring. Fry ’em up with potatoes and cheese and you’ve got yourself a delicious dish.

People come from miles around for the feast. My wife and I joined the group cleaning the ramps, peeling away the outer layer, washing off the dirt and cutting off the ends. It was hard work, but fun with friends.

“I’m not going,” I had told Shirley earlier. “I’d be lucky not to cut my fingers off.”

“Sam, you can do this,” she said. “It’ll be good to get out of the house.”

I’d relented. Now I sat at the table by a mound of onions and started in. I held each stalk firmly against the table, carefully slicing through the end. Glancing to my left, I saw the pile Shirley had already gone through, while I’d cleaned less than a dozen. I focused what was left of the sight in my one good eye back on my work.

“You know what you get when you mix onions with baked beans?” I heard a woman across the table say. “Tear gas.” Everyone laughed, even me. I looked over at her, a woman about my age. A man I took to be her husband sat beside her.

I’d never seen them before. Must have been their first time. The look on her face was pure joy. Like this was the best day of her life. I marveled at how she sliced the ends off her ramps without even looking at them. If only, I thought.

There was something infectious about her. She kept the room in stitches. The day flew by. I looked at the heaping pile of roots I’d cut. I’d done better than I thought.

“It’s been a pleasure,” the woman said, standing up. “I just thank God for all his blessings. He hasn’t failed me yet.” She reached back a bit awkwardly and felt around for a long white cane leaning against the wall, then made her way out of the building, her husband gently holding her arm.

She’s blind? She’d handled those ramps like a pro. Handled herself with such grace. Blessed—that’s how she’d described herself. I felt a faint echo of hope reverberate through me.

I underwent the surgery to relieve the pressure on my eye. Like the doc said, the pain was gone, but my vision was no better. Still, something was different. I couldn’t help thinking about how that woman accepted her blindness joyously, almost gratefully.

I started singing at churches and nursing homes. Heck, I could always play and sing with my eyes closed anyway. Evenings I’d sit on the deck with my wife, listening to the birds and breathing in the night air. I savored the sounds, the warmth of a touch, the sweetness of smell, a world as rich and full and beautiful as any I could see.

One evening at church, the preacher asked if anyone needed anointing. Not sure why, I raised my hand. The congregation surrounded me and placed their hands on me while the minister prayed.

In each individual hand, I could feel love. An unmistakable feeling of comfort. The same feeling I’d had for months. Truth was, I’d already been healed, that day cleaning ramps. I was healed of the darkness that blotted my soul.

Two weeks later, Shirley and I were driving down the highway. Suddenly, the road, the cars, the trees on either side of us—all were crystal clear. I closed my left eye. The world was still there. “Shirley, I can see!” I shouted. “I can see everything!”

My doctor could hardly believe it, let alone explain it. But there I was in her office reading the eye chart like nothing had ever happened.

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