Seeing life through my uncle's perspective helped me to appreciate the simple things in life.
Last week, I received the news: My uncle had been diagnosed with cancer. Cancer, however, is not new to me. Seventeen years ago, my father lost his life to cancer after battling it for many years.
If you’ve ever had to deal with cancer, you know this disease causes a great deal of physical and emotional distress to the individual facing it, as well as everyone who is a part of their life.
While we family members and close friends do not feel the side effects of brutal treatment and intimate fear of the unknown ahead, we do travel the stormy waters alongside them; not simply by being concerned about their well-being, but by witnessing them enduring the process, as if spectators, with our hands tied, and at times, aware it is a losing battle.
My father had to decide between which of his two cancers to treat, a truly hideous choice. Unfortunately, I have heard other inhuman cancer stories.
A few years after my father passed, one of my best friends had an intellectually disabled teenage sister diagnosed with cancer. Within a year of her passing, their father was also diagnosed with cancer and died. Both in under a year.
Fortunately, we who witnessed their struggles and ached with them not only survived without losing our minds, hope, and faith in life, but we emerged from the ominous journey even stronger.
It’s my understanding that strength and perspective are two components of existence that walk side by side.
Now, it appears that there's no limit when it comes to the misfortune of some. In my uncle's case, the cancer diagnosis came with a dose of vileness—he is also visually impaired. This condition not only created a delay in his ability to detect the need to visit a doctor and, consequently, its diagnosis, but it creates many complications in his treatment and managing the outcome should surgery be necessary.
Watch this video on my YouTube channel on How to Cure Perspective Blindness.
Along with my uncle's diagnosis, came the realization that over the years, I have become too busy focusing on living my life. Although I temporarily forgot many relevant memories, including some of him, there is no question that I was immeasurably inspired by him in many ways.
My uncle often made the trek from Rio de Janeiro to visit our family when I was a child. He would travel south to Rio Grande do Sul to participate in chess competitions for the visually impaired. As a child who only knew how to play a few board games, I was impressed both by his ability to play and his bravery for hopping on an airplane all by himself.
During those visits, we had long conversations on the front porch of my parents’ house. Besides touching my face to picture how I looked—something I wasn't used to yet made me feel special—he took the time to listen to me and share a bit of experience and wisdom; something few individuals have patience for with a ten-year-old girl.
"You know, my niece, I am a lucky blind!" he said in his soft, calm tone.
That sentence is the one that strikes me the most. Is there such a thing as a lucky blind? Not in my mind. Despite the explanation, his perspective still amazes me. He went on:
"I became blind when I was six years old. I know what a tree looks like. Some of my friends have no idea what a tree is. When someone tells me something is white, blue, or red I know exactly what they mean. People try to describe a color by saying, 'White is a soft color.' What is that supposed to mean?" He laughed. "But I know what white looks like."
While I was still too young to understand the concept of perspective, I was aware enough to know his take on life was admirable. Instead of being angry about becoming blind, he was thankful he had a chance to see for the first few years of his life. To him, life didn't take his vision away; it gave him a chance to see before it was gone.
As an adult, what captivates me the most about my uncle is his incredible sense of humor. He is always joking and walking around with a grin, even if he doesn't know anyone is there. During our last Christmas Eve together in 2014, we had trouble taking family pictures since we couldn't stop laughing at his jokes—he was complaining he couldn't look at the camera because someone turned the lights off and everything was dark.
"I don't know where the camera is! How am I supposed to look at it?" he exclaimed before almost choking with laughter while attempting to sip his beer.
On Christmas Day, he asked me to explain his condition to my daughter, a toddler at the time. To make her understand that some individuals can't see. I told her that he wasn't able to smile with his eyes, so he did it all with his lips. Before his flight back to Rio de Janeiro, he told me I should visit—he would take me to see the beach. He can't see, yet that doesn't prevent him from going everywhere, and by himself, most of the time, only accompanied by his cane.
In a busy city like Rio, he counts on the kindness of strangers who offer him help to cross streets and catch busses. In my youth, he taught me the best way to help the visually impaired is by placing one of their hands on our shoulder and walking in front of them instead of grabbing their hands or arms. That way, they can more precisely sense a step or obstacle ahead of them.
While some of us might think he had all the reasons in the world to sit around feeling sorry for himself, he enjoys life as much as he can. It's no coincidence he has always been my favorite uncle.
While we all have problems and face struggles in life, I believe there's so much we can learn from him. His story can be a reminder that we are blessed simply for having the ability to live with the assistance of our senses; something so basic we tend to take for granted.
There is no question that my uncle's experience has enabled him to see life more clearly than many of us with perfect vision.
In my opinion, joy begins with the ability to appreciate the simplest things in life.
Let's all try to find a cure for our own perspective blindness.
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