stlucyToday is St. Lucy Day. Great, you’re thinking. What does that even have to do with anything? Well, there’s a definite link to vision here.

My husband and I always wanted to have a daughter named “Lucy”, even back when we were 18 and dating, we talked about this name, inspired by a song by the band, Over the Rhine, the adventurous character in the Narnia series, The Beatles’ song, and its meaning: “light”.

It wasn’t until we actually ended up having a little girl named Lucy that we discovered she is the patron saint of eye diseases. While St. Lucy Day is celebrated most in Sweden and Norway, it is also observed in many other European countries. It is often celebrated with women carrying sweets and lights, often with a procession led by one girl wearing a headpiece with candles to “light the way” as St. Lucia once did.

My 6-year-old Lucy is a saint to me. Even on our first outing alone at a movie when she was just 3, she instinctively knew to grab my hand and lead me into the dark theater, her tiny hand clasping mine tightly even though her young mind probably didn’t eve comprehend why she had to help me. Whether it’s helping me match socks together, find crumbs that have fallen on the floor, or leading me through the dark, she is my little daily saint.

It’s interesting how un-phased yet protective she is in regard to my vision loss.

The other day as I was walking with the girls downtown, Lucy and I were talking about the possibility of getiting a guide dog someday. When I told her it might be awhile, she replied, “That’s okay mom, I can be your guide dog until then… Ruff Ruff!”

Ben’s uncle, who is a Catholic priest in Northeastern Ohio, wrote me a very endearing letter after he suffered from an eye illness that resulted in double vision for a few weeks. The time he spent in prayer and contemplation as he struggled through his illness brought Lucy and i to mind, so he wrote some of his insights to both of us. Here is an excerpt from his letter:

“I suppose I never gave this any consideration before, but I thought how significant it had to be for you, Lucy, to be so named and to have your mother and aunt with an eye ailment. Lucy, you will come to know that Lucy comes from the Latin word “lux, luce” which means light. I’ve also come to learn how much light refracts in our eyes so that we can see as we do. In our Christian faith, Lucy, you will learn that Jesus is the Light of the world for us. He is the true light that will take away all darkness in our lives. As the prayer card indicates, we share in the Light of faith that is Jesus Christ because of our baptism and we are to let that light burn brightly in our lives. St. Lucy is a patron saint for you, but also keep in mind that the name has much association with Jesus who is the Light.”

This letter is a tangible reminder of God’s goodness and of all the saints in my life. The dictionary definition of saint is “A person acknowledged as holy or virtuous”. I have numerous saints in my life– people who make tough days easier and sweet days even sweeter.

I have a good friend, for example, who picks up odds and ends for me at Costco, generous in her time even as she totes around her 3–year-old while trying to get her own list of items in a crowded store. Whether it’s surprising me with a gift basket on a tough day or running an extra errand…. she adds me to her list time and time again, and I’m not sure if she’ll ever know how much she blesses me despite my feeble attempts to thank her.

And another friend drives out of her way every single Sunday to pick the girls and I up for church since my husband leaves very early. And this is no small favor– she has to get her own kids ready, load extra car seats and listen to a car full of children bark orders about adjusting the volume on the DVD player….all while driving on the highway next to some terrible Sunday drivers. It’s truly a miracle that we make it to service on time (usually!) It’s also one of those things that I didn’t realize was a relief until it was offered. Being able to worship with my community each week without having to make numerous phone calls in hopes of finding a ride relieves so much stress and anxiety. I think back to how many Sundays I used to miss at our old church, and this is not to say that there were not generous people who occasionally drove us. I would never expect anyone to drive 35 minutes out of their way on a weekly basis, but the fact that there’s a saint in my life who does so without a second thought or even a hint of irritation is a gift.

Saints add that bit of warmth to our lives, often when we don’t even realize that we’re cold. They add warmth to our homes….sometimes even literally. My mother-in-law recently spent 8 hours sealing our old windows shut for the winter. She gave up an entire day so that her kids and grandkids can have a toasty winter.

Whether its family or friends, we all have saints in our lives, and whether we notice them, they are blessing us often. I am deeply grateful for my favorite little St. Lucy and the way she sparks light into my days.

 

While standing in a cozy, haphazard semi-circle around my grandfather’s grave on Christmas Day last year, my grandmother remarked, “Just think, all these people are here becaues of 2 people.”  And she was right. Not even all of her 9 children were there, yet the 7 that were, along with their families, created a small tribe of noises and happy commotion.

Three little girls sat on a memorial, pretending it was their horse, siblings posed and snapped pictures, and others milled around, taking it all in.

Maybe it’s just the habit of blending in with a large family, but large groups of people have a numbing effect on my vocal chords.

I sometimes wish I was one of the louder, more boisterous personalities like my grandma, making friends with the masses and spouting off witty remarks.  But I just love observing it all (kind of a pattern lately, see “Spectator“).

I like to think that I inherited some of this from my grandpa, who did a lot of observing.  He was quieter, but always contemplative.  He saw things.  And just when I’d kind of wonder whether he was really with me, he’d either crack some quiet joke or make some interesting observation.

My toddler tends to take after her grandma, however, so I wasn’t overly-surprised to hear her yell, ‘towers!  Knock ‘em down” as she pointed to the gravestones, which caused me to wonder about the wisdom of bringing young, rowdy children to a graveyard on a day when there may be people silently mourning loved ones.

My worry increased as my 5-year-old began prancing from stone to stone, pausing to ask loudly “And who died here?…..And who died here?” at each one.

Since darkness nipped at our heels, night blindness made it increasingly difficult to watch my children as they sprang around the graveyard like it was a playground.  Fortunately for large families, my college-aged cousins chased them around while other family members called out, “please get off that” as they climbed up on strangers’ gravestones.  There was a time not too long ago where a situation like this would have upset me.  Losing control and allowing others to intervene used to bother me.

But I guess the saying, “It takes a village” has proven true for me on so many occasions that I began to feel grateful for the times when others step in to help parent my children.  Now I often feel perplexed when I see friends or family get annoyed when other people correct their children, as if they are the only ones in the world permitted to help keep their kids safe and respectful.  Most of the time I am relieved when people help keep my kids in line because I know it’s for the benefit of everyone, including my children.

It takes many eyes, many hands, and many chasing feet to raise children.

I guess in a way it takes a certain amount of humility too.  Allowing others to correct your child, especially when you are present, is not easy.  I imagine that many parents– sighted or not– feel threatened or embarrassed when others step in, as if their role as parents in being judged…. and this is one way to look at it.  But here’s another: I feel like people love me and my kids enough to help me see what’s going on with them– figuratively and literally.

I don’t know why I’m going on about this, except to say that it’s a lesson that my visual challenges have taught me that I think could be helpful to many parents who might find themselves getting unnecessarily upset in these situations.

We all need help sometimes, and that doesn’t say anything negative about our parenting or our character.  In fact, quite the opposite; the way we set aside our pride and respond to assistance says volumes.  This comes from someone who often links arms with pride.  I don’t think I’d have the same appreciation for my large, amazing family if I didn’t take the time to step back once in awhile and lift the veil long enough to examine what’s really going on.

There’s a lot of wisdom and a lot of beauty waiting to be unveiled out there….. in places like school drop-off lines and playgrounds and grocery stores and graveyards.