A Blindness Lifted

The two men in today’s gospel who begged Jesus to restore their sight cannot have found life easy once their request had been granted. (Matt 9.27-31) We might speak today of ‘sensory overload’ and the challenge of relearning social and other skills, but more disconcerting even than that must have been the consciousness of a miracle, a miracle wrought in their own flesh. Sometimes prayer works like that. Our blindness is suddenly lifted and everything changes: we see, and with the new-found vision comes a new set of imperatives that makes our old life seem unreal, unworthy. We see gossip and scoffing for what it is, a destructive misuse of speech; the cleverness we used to applaud is revealed in its true colorus as scheming and trickery. (cf Isaiah 29.17–24) Such knowledge can be overwhelming and lead to despair unless we keep our eyes fixed on the Holy One.

This morning I am conscious of the fact that all the world’s pain and its tragedies has a human face. I happened to be at Didcot Parkway yesterday when a middle-aged woman threw herself in front of a freight train and was killed.* It was terrible for the rail staff, the paramedics, the police, everyone involved on the outside, so to say, but most terrible of all for the person on the inside, the woman herself. It is impossible for anyone who has not experienced it to know the loneliness and hopelessness she must have felt. Was it a sudden impulse, a moment of blind panic and desperation, or something wrestled with for ages to which she at last succumbed? Who knows, and what does it matter, anyway? Someone has died, a unique and irreplaceable human being and, whether we know it or not, we are all the poorer for her loss. This morning I trust we can all pray that her blindness will soon be lifted and she will gaze on the face of Christ in all its beauty. Let us pray also for those who mourn, for whom the darkness has just become a little bleaker, a little more profound.

  • The woman has not yet been formally identified although the police believe her to be Deborah Yalcin who went missing yesterday morning. Her death is still being investigated although it is being treated as not suspicious.
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7 thoughts on “A Blindness Lifted”

  1. Prayers for Deborah, for you as you witness to a story, that will be unwound in time, but will every be a mystery until we too share with Jesus in the new Kingdom to come.

    Back in the 1980’s, a friend, who I knew well, in the peak of life and is powers, with a loving family and a daughter about to marry, took him self off to Wales and on a remote hillside, gassed himself in his car.

    Neither his family or we, had any inkling (and still don’t) of why he did it, as he didn’t leave a note and hadn’t shown any outward symptoms of emotional distress or disturbance. His death distressed his family in so many ways, and most of us, who attended his funeral – the question on all of our minds was why? Again, one that won’t be answered in our lifetimes. And the Inquest shed no light on it and couldn’t pronounce a verdict of suicide, so that remains unresolved as far as I can see- which must still be painful for his family, even all of these years later.

    I know that it had a huge emotional impact on me. It knocked my confidence in the sanctity of life and had other consequences as I was still mourning my father, who’d died shortly before. This was a dark time, which I an only describe as an emptying of out of my life of God’s goodness, and a loss of faith, which persisted for another 30 years.

    I thank God for his refilling my life with his grace, but I know how fragile life can be and am much more aware that we all live in God”s grace and it’s his gift of life for us, that don’t have any time to waste, but to devote it to him.

    Psalm 21 is a comfort as is Psalm 52, than reflecting on the words of Psalm 8 really brings the power of peace (for me) with the past and the future, whatever it might be.

    • I will pray for your family, as for you. Just to clarify, I was at the station at the time but didn’t see Deborah jumping, so I’m not a witness as such; but one cannot be indifferent, and the effect on the rail staff etc was very evident (in a good way).

  2. Your blog reminded me that some years ago I helped in the investigation of a young woman’s suicide. She too had thrown herself under a train. She had been discharged from the local mental health hospital, despite both the GP and parents’ concerns that she was still not well enough to come home. Ironically, she had told the staff that she was now calm, and at last she could see what she needed to do in her life. Her suicide happened within hours of her discharge, and she had gone back to the railway line behind the hospital to do it. It appeared that as she saw it, her confusion, her blindness had lifted. She had calmly walked out onto the line and stood there as the train approached, unable to avoiding hitting her.

    The parents felt unable to identify her body in the circumstances, and I went with her GP who had agreed to do so. That was a harrowing experience, as you can imagine, one which I will never forget. The distress her suicide caused her wonderful, caring GP was almost as terrible as that of the parents. We also interviewed the train driver, who was so traumatised that he was unable to work again. The impact of such a sudden, violent death on people outside the immediate family is often underestimated. I met that GP recently, now retired, and she still has feelings of inadequacy, failure and even guilt that she could have done more to prevent it happening. The reality is, that we cannot make sense of something that is to us, by definition, an irrational act. As you say, only God can do that.

  3. ‘Tis the season it would seem. This week a man hung himself from the footbridge only steps away from our home. An atheist neighbour walking his dogs found him and called for police. A believing neighbour out jogging came upon first neighbour and the dangling victim.

    My husband and I met up with them later in the day, and while both reacted in a similar manner to the shock of finding the man, their subsequent feelings were quite different. The one felt we could do our part in praying for the victim, giving thanks for his life, however troubled, praying for his family, whoever and wherever they might be, confident in God’s mercy. The atheist saw only a dark void, nothingness beyond this life, hopelessness at the end of our life’s journey.

    With recent world events, with news of these suicides, I am increasingly thankful for Christ’s sacrifice and gift to us of eternal life.

    Changing the topic…I worked at an eye clinic for a number of years and once cared for a very young patient who had a congenital condition which caused displaced ocular lenses. He was new to Canada and we were excited to be able to fit him with eyeglasses which would help him see normally. We anticipated his reaction which turned out to be quite the opposite of what we’d imagined. He was terrified and ran and hid under a desk! He’d grown accustomed to his clouded and distorted view of life and once his vision was brought into focus could not make sense of things! I often think of him when I read the passages in today’s readings and take the points you make, Sister, at the beginning of your post. As with the suicide victims, hope makes all the difference, and add to that trust in God’s mercy.

  4. I met Debbie some years ago at a training event and was so struck by her love for her family and her commitment to her holistic therapy practice. I was also aware of her struggles in life, and I hope with all my heart that she is at peace now. Prayers for her family at this time.

  5. I lost a grandfather to suicide. He died before my birth but the effect on our family was and is profound. These words by Charles D’Ambrosio in his short story “Salinger and Sobs” resonate with me. D’Ambrosio is writing about his brother Danny’s death:

    “Suicide is a kind of death that makes you doubt what you know about the deceased or what you can ever know about anybody. It strikes clear to the core of identity, reaching down into the heart of your life… I wake up afraid and I have to know where I am, I need to see right away. And when I go out, I always leave a radio on just so that when I come home I’ll hear voices or, more precisely, I won’t hear the silence and get all spooky imagining the surprises waiting for me. By a curious mechanism my brother’s death has extended the vivid fears of my childhood into my adult life. When a suicide happens within a family, that organism takes on the taint just as much as any individual.”

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