I learnt to be more and more grateful for one tiny thing which most people don’t even think about – their eyesight.
When I was young, wild and some may say, out of control, I had possibly one of the greatest blessings in my life forced upon me -- to live with my mother’s brother and his family. I did not realise it at the time…but this period in my life was going to be the one where I would learn how to make the impossible, possible, and how to take life’s hardest knocks and turn them into opportunities. Each day, I learnt to be more and more grateful for one tiny thing which most people don’t even think about – their eyesight. These were lessons I would carry for life, lessons that helped me through the toughest times and reminded me always, to choose life.
Moving overnight from an aetheist home to a home where people went to bed at 9 and recited the rosary every night – this was an experience in itself. To be honest, at that time, Uncle Rienzie Benedict was just another adult getting in the way of everything I wanted to do. It was only many years later that I had the time and maturity to really see things through his eyes.
He was blind for most of his life. Call it whatever fancy term to make it sound better but it was what it was, he could not see any of the things we daily take for granted. Despite this, he had a family, a job, friends and most importantly the skill, compassion and time to help every single person who crossed his path. Most of these are challenges to those who can see. From finding people, domestic help, to looking for school vans, from teaching the deaf to play chess, to managing charity events – his “to do” list was endless, longer and more varied than any list I have ever seen.
"One would think that losing your sight would mean losing everything and that life ends there"
Never once did I hear him complain about a single thing he or anyone else was faced with. He was not a man of many words but he did ask a lot of questions from his daughters and myself, trying to figure out what our day had been like. He made up for his lack of sight by absorbing everything he heard.
Many years later, as I sit here trying to absorb that he is no more, making excuses for not giving him more of my time – I realize that whenever that pang of lacking something hit me, when I wake up with a complaint that it’s raining or cold or not having something I desired -- Uncle crossed my mind. One would think that losing your sight would mean losing everything and that life ends there…but he showed me and everyone around him that you don’t need sight to have love in your heart and be the most caring, compassionate person, changing the lives of those you touched.
There was a time when the tag line for everything that happened in our family was “ask Uncle Rienzie” because we knew if he did not have the answer he would make sure he found it for us. I failed to tell this great man in time all the words I should have all these years. Many have been the days when I have battled through life thinking – Uncle Rienzie couldn’t even see but still he did so much I must quit whining and get this done. I wish I took the time to tell him how much he helped me to just get through life.
His legacy lives on, reminding me to take a moment to stop and be grateful whenever I enjoy an amazing sunset or see my child smile…to be grateful that I am breathing, writing, living and seeing life. He taught me the greatest lesson of seeing life through your heart, not just your eyes. A man who could not see but still saw more than us - My Uncle Rienzie.