Bartimaeus, a blind man, cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me. —- Master, I want to see.” (Mk 10:47-51)
That passage of scripture has always been very sacred to me because my mother was blind. She lost her eyesight when she was around the age of 40 and she remained sightless for the remainder of her earthly life. So I am well aware of the limitations that a blind person must face and the sacrifices that a blind person is forced to make. But I am equally impressed with how God sharpens the other senses of a blind person to help them in living with their loss.
The home that my mother and father shared for many years was on the shore of an inland lake. If you could have seen my mother when she was in her own home, you would never know that she was blind. She moved about and functioned as well as anyone, because she knew where everything was and she was comfortable in her own environment. The entry door that led into their kitchen was on the end of the house that was farthest from the lake. My dad had built a walkway that led from that doorway to the picnic table and bench swing that they had on the lawn by the lake. And even on that walkway, my mother walked and moved about freely, because it was an environment that she was familiar with.
I could tell many stories that would demonstrate the sharpness of my mother’s other senses, but there is one event that truly demonstrated her acute sense of smell. On one particular occasion, on a beautifully warm and sunny summer’s day, I and my family had stopped by mom and dad’s house for a visit. My brother and his family also happened to be there. He and his family were returning from a camping vacation and had also stopped by for a visit. Their car and camper were parked in the driveway. It was common for everyone to congregate on the lawn by the lake, and since this was such a beautiful summer’s day, this was no exception. My mother was in her kitchen, but everyone else was out by the lake. We said hello to everyone and I went into the kitchen to see my mother. After she had completed whatever preparations she was making, we left the kitchen, went out the door, down the steps, and proceeded down the pathway that led to the lake. I walked along by my mother’s side as she walked comfortably along that pathway. Suddenly she stopped. I looked at her and asked, “What’s the matter.” She said, “There is something in front of me.” I said, “There is nothing in your way on the path, but the camper is parked on the driveway that is right alongside of the path. But it will not be an obstacle to you.” She said, “Oh! Okay!” and we proceeded on our way. Then I asked her, “How did you know that the camper was there?” And she replied, “Because I could smell it.” That answer surprised me, so I asked, “What did it smell like?” And she said, “It smelled like metal.” Her answer truly surprised me. I said nothing, but to this day I still wonder, what does metal smell like?
I have another story that demonstrates her acute sense of hearing. And for this story I have to tell on myself. My father really enjoyed an occasional glass of beer, especially when he was sitting down enjoying a conversation with another man. He was not an alcoholic or anything like that, but he really enjoyed that occasional glass of beer. Near the end of his life, my father had asked his doctor if he could still enjoy his occasional beer; and the doctor advised that he limit himself to just one bottle of beer per day. Well one day, while my wife and I were driving out to visit my mom and dad, I stopped by a party store and bought the biggest can of beer I could find. It was a one liter can of an imported beer. When we arrived at their house, my wife and my mother sat on the bench swing in the yard while I and my father went onto their boat dock, which was about one hundred feet away. I gave my father that big can of beer. He looked at me and smiled and then opened that beer can. When my mother heard that small poof sound of dad opening that can of beer, she said, “Herman, are you having a beer?” And my dad replied, “Yes dear, but I am only having one.” I know. I’m bad. But it was funny. And I was so surprised that she could hear that.
On another occasion, my aunt and uncle, my mother’s brother, were in town. They lived in California and were in town on vacation. They stopped by my mom and dad’s house for a visit. My wife and I also came. We all had a very enjoyable day and an enjoyable visit. When it came time for us all to leave, my mom gave her brother a hug and a kiss. As they parted, my mother broke down and cried and grabbed her brother to give him another hug. As they parted for the second time my uncle jokingly said, gee whiz, I am only going back home. My mother could not regain her composure. After my aunt and uncle left, I looked at my mother and asked what was wrong. And she said, “That’s the last time that I will ever see him.” I said nothing, but six months later my uncle died unexpectedly. My mom had an uncanny and unexplainable sixth sense that I never understood, but always marveled at it.
Even though my mother spent over half of her life sightless, she was the most jovial and happy person you could possibly imagine. She enjoyed visitors. She loved to entertain. She was the life of every party. She loved to travel. And she had a deep devotion to our Blessed Mother and prayed the rosary daily. She enjoyed life and never let her “handicap” stand in the way of her enjoyment of this earthly life. She was a true inspiration.
We all occasionally experience inconveniences and problems in life. But what I learned from my mother is that we must never allow those problems and inconveniences to interfere with, or rob us of, our enjoyment of this life that God has given us.
We all know, and have met, those individuals who would rob us of the joys of life, whose demeanor is unpleasant, or who are constantly rude or condescending. In the Gospel of Mark (12:38), Jesus warns us, “Be on guard against the scribes, who like to parade around in their robes, and accept marks of respect in public.” Similarly, we also need to be on guard against those who would try to rob us of the joys of life.
Remember, if you can breathe, you can experience the love of God and the joy that God wants for you. “Every time we take a breath of air, God the Father is saying ‘I love you.’ The only reason air is here, is for you. There is no other reason that the air is here. How many times in a day do you take a breath of air? Whatever the number is, that is how many times that God is telling you that He loves you. Hear Him as you breathe say, ‘I love you.’” (Dean Braxton, Experiencing the Throne of God from the book Heaven is beyond your wildest expectations.)
Therefore, live and enjoy life, no matter what obstacles the world might throw at you; because God loves you. That is the secret to happiness that I learned from my mother.