In 1996, I started seeing a single spot in my right eye. At first, I thought there was a scratch on the lens of my glasses. When it persisted, I went to my optometrist, who told me not to worry. “It’s just a small blood clot that will disintegrate on its own,” he said.
The spot got bigger, so much so that if I looked at a four-letter word, the two middle characters would be completely blocked out. A friend recommended her doctor, who told me after the third visit, “You have a hole in your retina.”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“You’re just going to go blind,” he answered and walked out of the examining room, leaving me there in tears.
I composed myself and drove back to work. One of my co-workers noticed that I was sad and asked why. When I told her what the doctor had told me, she said, “Don’t take his word, get another opinion.” Then, she told me about another co-worker who had a friend who specialized in such cases.
Long story short — there was a long waiting list to see the new doctor, but he said if I didn’t mind waiting, he would see me. I waited five hours and I didn’t mind. The Lord had given me a sweet calmness. I knew I was going to be fine.
Still, the months leading up to discovering what was wrong, and the days prior to the operation that followed, were some of the darkest of my life. I am a writer; I needed my sight. I was going through one of my life’s valleys. And while I couldn’t see the positive outcome for a while, my faith told me that the Lord would see me through victoriously. Today, 22 years later, my right eye is my best eye.
It was not the first time that I had gone through a dark valley. As an octogenarian, I have experienced many different kinds of valleys. There have been spiritual ones, where my faith wavered. Valleys in my career, in my personal life and when some of my closest friends slandered my name.
As a child, I had been bullied. As a young wife, I’d been abused. For the life of me, I will never understand how a man (or woman) could hurt the person they vowed to love and cherish. The pain of that valley caused me to think that maybe I’d be better off dead. The thought didn’t linger for too long, thank God. I had only to look at my two beautiful boys to know that I didn’t want to leave them for someone else to raise. Nobody, I thought, could love my babies like I could.
My faith has always brought me out of the darkest valleys. I tell you about these valleys, not to make you pity me, but to let you know that however deep your valley, or no matter how dark the tunnel is in your life, there is always a way out. For me, it is my faith in God.
When you go through your valley, you will have a different perspective on life. My valley of nearly going blind gave me a greater sense of the beauty around me. While I have always praised God for His magnificent creations, since my eye operation, I have never looked at a blade of grass in the same way. I notice even the flowering weeds and say a silent prayer of thanksgiving that I can see their bright colors. I am thankful, too, that I can see the butterflies that flutter around my milkwood bush.
I can’t drive at night without praising God for the magnificent universe — the stars and moon and the vast darkness that houses other planets — and maybe even other life. I can’t go to the beach without basking in the awesomeness of God as I watch the waves crash on the shore again and again, or see the puffy, white clouds forming various objects and faces against the bright blue sky.
Perhaps someone is reading this column and going through a valley. Perhaps you are having one of those days when you feel that you just can’t make it. I am here to tell you that you can make it; that just as there are valleys, there are also mountains and hills covered with flowering beauty.
I’m here to tell you that no matter what you are going through, it’s only for a season, and joy really does come in the morning.
High Holy Days
This is the High Holy Days season for our Jewish friends, and Ahavat Olam Synagogue at 10755 SW 112th St. is preparing for this special time by having two open houses, at 2 p.m. Sunday and at 11 a.m. Aug. 19. A special children’s pizza dinner and concert will be at 6 p.m. Aug. 25. At 9 p.m. Sept. 1, the synagogue will have a short Selichot service.
Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown Sept. 9. There will be a 7:30 p.m. service with a celebration of life led by Rabbi/Cantor Danny Marmorstein and The Big Bima Band. The music will range from pop to traditional liturgy.
All other High Holiday services will be traditionally observed and conducted by Marmorstein, with music performed by the Ahavat Olam Choral Society, pianist Sergio Gonzalez and cellist Konstantin Litvinenko. For a complete schedule of the High Holy Day services, call the temple at 305-412-4240.
Blessing of the Backpacks
With the opening of school just over the horizon, Trinity Cathedral, 464 NE 16th St., will have a “Blessing of the Backpacks” ceremony during each service on Aug. 19, at 8 and 10 a.m., and at 12:15 p.m. The blessing will include all teachers and students, from kindergarten to adults. Everyone is invited.
Also, “Yoga at the Cathedral” class is held at 6:15 p.m. Mondays. The exercise program is open to people of all ages and faith traditions. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Christian Homes for Children and AMG Global Distribution will sponsor a back-to-school giveaway from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, at Goulds Church of Christ, 22800 SW 112th Ave. Schoolchildren attending the event will receive free school supplies and book bags; and from 10 a.m. to noon, Beauty Schools of America will provide free haircuts.
The day will also include free food and face painting. Supplies are limited, so if you go, get there early. For more information call 305-825-051.
Also, if you want to donate school supplies, the items needed are book bags, pencils, pens, highlighters, erasers, filler paper, folders, binders, dividers, composition notebooks, USB/jump drives, calculators, rulers, protractors (compass and straight edge), crayons, color pencils and glue.
Bring your donations to the Christian Homes for Children at 22796 SW 89th Pl., Cutler Bay (located in the Isles of Bayshore) by Monday, Aug. 13.
Back 2 School Bonanza
Tenth Tabernacle Beth-El Church, at 2298 NW 62nd St., will have its fifth annual Back 2 School Bonanza from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. The day will include a bounce house, food and drinks. Call 86-477-23 for more information.
Community Fireside series
Thomas Carsey, a longtime member of the Bah’a’i faith, will be the speaker for the monthly Community Fireside series, presented by the Miami Bah’a’i Center at 9300 S. Dixie Hwy., Suite 209.
Carsey’s topic will be, “Unity or Division: Which Way Forward.” Carsey is a retired environmental scientist.
A discussion will follow Carsey’s talk. For more information call 305-915-7247. Also, the center will host a Community Devotional at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 26. There is no admission charge or a solicitation of funds. Everyone is welcome.
Ms. Senior Florida
The Ms. Senior Florida Pageant will be held at 3 p.m. Aug. 19 at the Julius Littman Theater, 17011 NE 19th Ave. in North Miami Beach. The pageant is being presented by the city of North Miami Beach.
The program will be an evening of “inspiration, music and talent,” according to a press release, and will feature television actress Jo Marie Payton as guest judge. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.