Vision… is not the simple thing it is imagined to be… In particular, vision helps us to know what we are like. Because we cannot see what we do not understand or use or identify with, we see very little of the world. – J. Elkins
Vision loss. A frightening, traumatizing thought, and one that we don’t want to linger on for very long.
After recent surgery on both of my eyes to correct my narrow angle glaucoma, I had a somewhat unusual bleed in my right eye. A murky veil of orange-ish yellow settled on my field of vision. Initially, it was a terrifying feeling. I could not even see someone waving their hand in front of my eyes – only that veil. I was afraid I might never regain sight in that eye. Fortunately my vision did return. A relief, a joy beyond words.
That experience could have been very frightening to be sure, but it actually turned into a spiritual one for me because of the exceptional skill, encouragement, and empathy of my doctor, Rick Bendel, M.D. at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. The privilege of working with this amazing doctor and undergoing eye surgery under his care is difficult to put into words. Dr. Bendel graduated from medical school with highest distinction, did an internship in India, and was a Fellow and did his residency at the Kresge Eye Institute. He was invited as professor for the 20th anniversary of finishing his residency at Kresge and was awarded their Distinguished Alumni Award in June 2015. I believe all of this has made him an extraordinary and sensitive doctor – one that other doctors could learn from.
When Dr. Bendel first discovered that my narrow angle glaucoma was extremely problematic and perhaps even close to a dangerous closure with the possible loss of sight, he gently and patiently explained the danger my eyes were in. I shall never forget how tranquil and confident he made me feel – without making me panicked or unnerved. Days later in the operating room, I was calm and comfortable as I listened to the sounds of soft, soothing music playing in the background, and there was no chattering among the staff. Dr. Bendel explained that he wanted me to be able to relax and focus on the music while he focused on his task – a teamwork approach. I could feel his reassuring hands on my face as he instructed me to “Look at the light, Joy.” It truly became a spiritual occasion for me as “the light” turned into outlandishly beautiful colors as he worked on my eye.
Somehow that entire experience changed my perspective on seeing. Yes, I now think that I have a new way of “seeing”. I learned something about sight and vision from Dr. Bendel’s concern and kindness and from my period of “not seeing” with my right eye. Not being able to catch sight of the details of my surroundings, I discovered that there is another way of learning from blurry vision. It started when I could feel the heat more intensely on my body. I began to “hear” the light shining through the live oak trees around my cottage as their leaves rustled and moved in the wind. I also heard my own breath and I felt more in tune with life. It’s as though I stopped “looking” for things and instead focused on feeling my way through interactions. I’m beginning to understand that I can see beyond the surface, past the “judging” that at times our eyes do. I feel more open to the beauty in others allowing their reality to come forward.
Strange how my encounter with the very compassionate Dr. Bendel and my brief, temporary bout with not being able to see has helped me to experience a deeper kind of seeing. I no longer need to “see” things to know what they are. I can listen to them, breathe them, or feel them. But what is even more amazing is that I have exceptional vision in both eyes now. And I have had the pleasure of being shown what is called the anterior imaging of my eyes showing that they are now deep in a normal fashion from what was previously exceptionally flat. Now that is sheer joy!! A true gift!!
* Have you had the experience of working with someone who gives you complete confidence even in what could be very frightening times? What did you learn from that?
* Have you ever experienced not being able to “see”? How did you feel or learn from that experience
* Are there times in your life when not “seeing” is related to something beyond your eyes?
Beloved Giver of Sight, thank you for the amazing world that you have created for us and for the gift of sight. Thank you also for highly skilled and compassionate doctors like Dr. Bendel who believe in us and help us when we are in dark times. We are so slow to realize how special these gifts are. Open our hearts and our eyes to the beauty in others and in nature. May we experience a deeper kind of seeing. Amen.