After our routine fall screenings, the stern school nurse placed a typewritten note in my hand for home delivery—I needed a professional eye exam. I had no idea I had an issue, and neither did my parents. I wasn’t sure what it all meant, and I was concerned. But turns out, it was a good thing.
I’ll always remember the warm September day when those first prescription lenses came in. Walking out of that local optometry office in my small hometown, I was giddy with my trendy oversized monogrammed frames.
Mostly, I remember thinking the elderly doctor must have been a wizard. Once I stepped onto the sunny sidewalk, it seemed my world had changed for good.
Everything was there as before, but now crisp and finely detailed. Trees had leaves and leaves had veins, faces had smiles and smiles had wrinkles. Even clouds had definition. My dog had tiny holes with thread-like whiskers growing out near his rubbery-looking nose. I had no idea I was missing the finer points. My 3rd grade mind couldn’t wrap around everything that had gone unseen.
How had I lived eight entire years without this perspective?
As an adult, so much of what I have experienced through heart failure has given me eyes for what I couldn’t see before. Now the recent loss of a friend and both my parents have done the same thing to me again. I keep re-living this:
It’s the same world I’ve always been walking around in. But I see it differently now.
A GRADUAL, CLEARER PERSPECTIVE
Any kind of loss has the potential to fine-tune our perspective: death, disease, divorce, disaster, deep disappointment. But it also has the potential to blunt it.Any kind of loss has the potential to fine-tune our perspective: death, disease, divorce, disaster, deep disappointment. But it also has the potential to blunt it.Click To Tweet
The current of life ebbs and flows, and each wave can sometimes steal grains of our perspective, like the ocean tide swipes the beach’s sand. Every hard thing chips away at our sightline.
Maybe that’s why I have to keep re-seeing things to get it. And maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
I think of the blind man Jesus healed twice.
In Mark 8:22-26, Jesus undertook a healing miracle by spitting on a blind man’s eyes and laying hands on him. When the man opened his eyes, he could see just fuzzy forms of people, like “trees walking around.” Jesus repeated the process and then the man could see in greater detail. At first it disturbed me that it took Jesus two times to cure the blindness. Previous miracles prove that Jesus could have healed him perfectly the first time.
Now I wonder if Jesus was teaching his disciples something as he gradually restored this man’s sight.
Perhaps His point is that their understanding (and ours) is coming, but it is coming in stages. Perhaps we, too, get clearer perspective as gradual insight rather than through one dramatic event.
As life gives and takes, our ability to see the important things can come and go. The God of Grace understands, and encourages us to keep squinting into His light.
When we lose perspective, we do one of two things:
we overvalue what’s less important or we undervalue what’s truly important.
– Margaret Feinberg
THREE THINGS I SEE DIFFERENTLY
With my new glasses, it wasn’t the big things I was missing. No seismic shifts, just simple things – the turned-up corners of my dad’s smirk when he saw my “bold choice” in frames. The veins on the back of Mom’s hands, as she stirred spaghetti sauce that night. (I wondered how long they’d been there.)
Now, my perspective has once again shown me the details I’d been missing. Not grand, new ideas, but small, familiar ones:
1. Do Their Things
Whether we feel cheated out of a decade, a lifetime, or another weekend, we always think we’re going to have one more chance.Whether we feel cheated out of a decade, a lifetime, or another weekend, we always think we’re going to have one more chance.Click To Tweet
Hospice left my parents’ house one Wednesday morning, saying Dad would be minimally responsive by the week’s end. Turns out he slipped away before that day’s lunch break ended. I waved goodbye to Mom wondering how she’d spend the remaining years of her life. The reality was she only had a few weeks. My friend finished work on Friday, broke her ankle on Sunday and died on Wednesday. These are not the stories I’d written for any of them.
But through each one, I’ve learned to be more present and participate in the lives of those I love. It doesn’t have to be European vacations, but just a quiet meal, time for a movie, a look-into-your-eyes listening on the couch. I wish I’d made these a priority: a weekly lunch with my friend, shopping with Mom for the church dress she wanted, watching Dad’s alma mater play a football game I cared nothing about. I wish I’d trained for a race with my husband and swam with my children when I had the heart to do it.
My husband modeled this for me well, visiting his own terminally ill father every week 300 miles away to mend a difficult past. But it takes individual intention and then it takes action. I didn’t see that detail for too long.
It’s never the wasting of time that hurts so much as the wasting of our intentions.
– Ann Voskamp
2. Say Your Words
I can’t remember the name of that hometown optometrist/wizard. I do know it was a fun name to say. Mom and Dad would know, but I can’t ask them now. My friend’s number no longer shows up on my phone, inviting too-long conversations. And the silence is deafening.
Whether death crashes in or crawls into our lives, we often miss small opportunities to ask important questions, and express life-altering words.
More questions I never asked my parents: Where did my name come from? Why did I have a super-short pixie haircut in kindergarten? How did you handle being so far away from your grandchildren all those years?
Pictures first seen at funerals whispered of unspoken stories: Dad’s early career, my friend’s childhood, my mother’s siblings.
And then things I should have said, meant to say: I’m sorry, I cherish you, I’d do that differently next time, I understand, I wish.
I’ve learned that, especially in difficult relationships, we should forgive, extend spoken grace. Even if none is given to us. It’s the essence of the Christian story: We can’t hold for ransom something that was given to us for free.We should forgive, extend spoken grace. Even if none is given to us. It’s the essence of the Christian story: We can’t hold for ransom something that was given to us for free.Click To Tweet
3. Acknowledge the Legacy
We don’t live here forever. A strangely intriguing app, WeCroak, reminds the user five times a day, “Don’t forget, you’re going to die.” Personally, I don’t need that. I used to—now I have a device that warns and a scar that taunts and a heart that races to remind me. I live every day aware that I am going to die.
Still, I sometimes dismiss the inevitability of the end when it comes to those I love.
I am starting to see more clearly now that we should acknowledge a person’s legacy before they’re gone. We should parade the good they’ve done in front of them so they know, and remember. Perhaps my greatest regret is that all the kind words, lives changed, hearts touched, came out of the woodwork after my people died.We should acknowledge a person’s legacy before they’re gone.Click To Tweet
If death is to lose its full sting in my own heart, I need to commit to changing that. I want to be someone who broadcasts at breakfast, or bedtime, or birthday parties what is usually reserved for funerals.
Truth burrows in the body. Truth flickers…Truth invites you back for another look.
– Marilyn McEntyre
From my journal:
Invisible illness is deceiving. I can look so normal and yet pay for a day out for several days afterward. So much happens inside the body and the soul that can’t be seen at first glance. More than changing others’ vision, this disease has changed my own. If I’m being honest, many days since my diagnosis I’ve felt cheated or wronged by God. This is a story with chapters I’m still surprised are mine. But most days I feel grateful to be chosen and trusted by God to share His message through my story. As all the days with chronic illness add up to years, I am thankful for the ongoing opportunities to see the important things in great detail.
Though heart failure first opened my eyes, no one escapes the progressive condition of mortality. So we can all benefit from seeing differently. Besides easing relationship regret, an eternal perspective will right-size today’s worries, too.
So I’ll keep offering my glasses, and borrowing the stronger lenses of others. (If history holds, it may take me more than one look.)
Like that ages-ago autumn afternoon, wearing my first pair of glasses… things look so different now.
Turns out, my world hasn’t really changed.
But I have.