None so blind as he who cannot see

During the course of my career, I had the privilege of meeting people from every possible walk of life all over the world, and each will forever hold a dear place within my portfolio of memories and lessons learned.  One gentleman in particular has captivated my attention once again.

I will refer to him as Mr. Pate and he was a journalist.   He and his wife lived the majority of their lives in New York City, where she was a professional dancer on Broadway and performed for a time at Radio City Music Hall as an authentic Rockette. Their living room was alive with photos of this beautiful woman, clad in brilliant costumes, complete with elaborate headdresses and an abundance of jewels.  As an older lady, she moved with poise and grace, fluttering among those who were in her company, dazzling and radiant and so obviously deeply in love with her very astute husband of over 50 years.  

They were a couple straight from the pages of a fairytale, with a love and commitment for each other surpassing the need for words.  I left their company reeling with hope and the realization that goodness still prevailed in a world so often soured with greed and despair.  

On this particular day, my coworkers and I were hosting a support and training group for those who were visually impaired or blind.  Mr. Pate seemed particularly quiet throughout the day, his hands shaking a bit more than usual, and his eyes downcast.  Mrs. Pate, as always, was cheerful and accommodating, her eyes never straying far from her husband, her lovely features ever so slightly clouded with concern.  At the end of our session, we were all urged to share experiences or progress made in regard to coping with vision loss.  Mr. Pate sat on the edge of his seat, ready to share his thoughts. As the session neared its close, he raised his hand slowly, struggling to his feet. 

“I would like to share something, Miss Belinda.  It is not really anything I have learned over the past month.  Rather, it is an observance I have made throughout my life and especially since my eyesight declined,” he said.

“As you all know, I am a journalist. When I first began to lose my sight, I mourned and felt very sorry for myself.  I came to the conclusion that because I could no longer see well, I could no longer write.  This group and this training has proven me wrong.  I can still use a keyboard,  I can still print out a thought in large print.  I can listen to my favorite books on tape, though I prefer the real book in my hand.”  

He chuckled and we all joined in, for we all agreed there is nothing like the feel and smell of a book.

Mr. Pate’s voice began to quiver, his pale blue eyes focused past the group now.

“I have discovered that those of us who no longer see well, remain seeing more than those who are not afflicted with a physical failing of the eye.  In other words, one does not have to be blind to not see.  Do you know what I mean?”  

He looked around the room, searching for affirmation, and of course, we all agreed.  He sat down slowly and buried his face in his hands, his shoulders shaking as he sobbed quietly.  Mrs. Pate went to him, bending down to kiss him lightly on his forehead.  There were many tears shed as we departed that day.  

It is true that there are those who do not see, despite precise eye function,  What tore at my heart that day was more the way the words were spoken with such heartbreak and sincerity.  He was the finest of the fine, that dear, sweet journalist.  He was someone I will always remember.  

Mr. Pate passed away shortly after that session.  I never got the opportunity to see him again.   I have been told that Mrs. Pate moved very soon after his death, and I often wonder how she managed life without her soulmate.  On the day I closed his case file, I wept and vowed to research his work as a writer, which I did.  Mr. Pate was a brilliant journalist and it was my honor to work with him.  

Mr. Pate faithfully attended those training sessions with great enthusiasm and an eagerness to make the best of his remaining vision.  Yes, he was there to learn, yet he gifted each of us with what I consider to be the greatest lesson of all: the ability to see clearly with the eyes of the soul.

May you rest in peace, Mr. Pate.  You will forever be remembered.  

Belinda Ouellette lives in Caribou with her Goldendoodle, Barney.  You may email her at belindaouellette9@gmail.com.

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