June 25, 2003 I woke up having had a stroke. I lost my eyesight. A very kind hospital volunteer sat on my bed early on during my recovery. She described in great detailed the picture hanging on the wall. She taught me a life changing lessons: You do not have to see images to realize the beauty which fills the world around us. She also allowed me to understand there is a large difference between having eyesight and having vision. Images can be discovered in different ways and vision has more to do with the hope for our future rather than what our eyes see in briefly passing moments.
Getting back the eyesight I now have was a long, gradual process. Half my world is still completely black. I have hemianopia and can no longer see anything using my left peripheral from both eyes. Click here to see a picture I showed on a previous post which demonstrates how a street looks now when I walk out of a building.
Though I did regain fifty percent of what I can see, my visual memory never returned. The stroke permanently destroyed that piece of my brain. When I close my eyes and try to remember what something looks like, I can no longer create pictures within my mind. Whether I am trying to remember what a sunset looks like, trying to picture a glass of water or trying to imagine what a tree looks like, I cannot create any image or color within my mind. The visual memory loss took away my ability to see anything when I have my eyes closed.
Yet, as I said, I did regain half my eyesight. At first, I could not see anything with my eyes open, and I was unable to see anything when I tried to remember what I had seen previously. For too long, my world was too dark. The world seen through my mind was always completely black.
Yet, through this experience, I have been able to learn an important lesson. I hope you can take something away from this, too. What is in front of you right now? What you see when you look out into the world today, treasure it. Don’t take that streak of lightning, the smile from a stranger or images you may see every day for granted. One day this image may be erased from your memory forever. Regardless of how long or how often I am given to experience any sight, I try to treasure it.
I try to notice all the images and colors which fill my world.
I try noticing minute details such as how a ripple of water can dance with the fading light.
These are images I see nightly from my backyard. For three years, I have enjoyed watching the beautiful night sky where I live. I realize at times I am fortunate to still have so much eyesight missing from each eye. You see, every second of every day I have this reminder to never take for granted the beautiful world in which I live. I always remember that early lesson I was taught – just because I can’t see something or memories do not remain does not mean the pictures surrounding me are not filled with beauty. I celebrate and treasure what I see, even if it is only for a fleeting moment.
“Here ends another day, during which I have had eyes, ears, hands and the great world around me. Tomorrow begins another day. Why am I allowed two?” G.K. Chesterton