The Woman Who Taught Me How to Be Blind Yet Able to See

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

by Sherri Woodbridge |

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Several years ago, I attended a women’s conference. The speaker was very pretty. Her Dorothy Hamill haircut — most popular for the times — was styled just so, and her makeup was applied perfectly. Her earrings didn’t sit lopsided on her lobes, her clothes were neatly ironed, and all the buttons were in the right holes in her blouse. 

Why was I so enamored with her? Because she is blind. 

I was distracted for most of the presentation as I intently observed how she was so perfectly put together. Did she get ready — dress, apply makeup, button every button into its proper place — by herself or did she have help? 

That was a dumb question. Yet, I still inwardly asked and answered it: either or both. Maybe none.

Here was a 40-something-year-old woman who was told when she was just 15 that she was going blind due to a rare eye disease known as retinitis pigmentosa. 

I’m sure she must have gone through the stages of grief. And though she most likely experienced them all — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — she didn’t stay in that dark place. She relearned to brush her hair without a mirror. She probably needed or had some help, at least in the beginning. However she did it, or does it, she was willing to accept help.

Listening to her, she didn’t let her disease take over how she saw herself. She took care of herself. She didn’t want pity or someone to commiserate with. It was her blindness that may have roused others’ attention, but it was how she came through the trials and testing of her spirit that kept people listening to her. 

Many people receive life-changing news and they stop living. They give up. They go to a dark place and spend the rest of their lives refusing to see and experience just how much sunshine is left. They refuse to get up and shower. They won’t take their medications when they know they should. They don’t answer their phone. They just give up.

I have not lived with nearly the same degree of symptoms that others have, but I do experience a good amount. Just today, I was talking with a neighbor about back pain, and we both agreed that we didn’t honestly know if we could finish positively the race God has set before us, with this thorn in our flesh. 

Will we be able to finish in good spirits, without complaining, and without looking the part of someone who has given up, but rather as someone who can see the end in sight and runs toward it? Will we have food stains all over our tattered nightgown, or will we be donning a clean one? Will we have spinach in our teeth or drool stains along our chin? Will rats be in our hair or will we have let someone help us and brush them out for us? 

How we look on the outside often reflects what is going on inside. And often, if we improve the outside, we will improve the inside. And we will feel better. Others will no longer see the disease we carry around with us but rather the light we allow to shine through it. They won’t see our disabilities but our capabilities. They will see the sunshine in spite of the darkness. 

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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