Today my mom is having cataract surgery. “A simple procedure, out-patient, and takes only an hour or so. Afterwards a few days of patching, frequent drops, no lifting heavy objects. Done. She will be able to see nearly normal again.”
But it is not a simple procedure, to see again. When our family was on the South Pacific island of Samoa (part of the United States since the early 1900’s), Bill was donating a summer of time as hospital pediatrician. Our “compound neighbors” were a young family from northern California. The husband was an opthamalogist donating his time and skills. We were often invited to come along with them when a Samoan chief was hosting a celebration – a fia-fia – to thank the eye doctor for restoring vision. A miracle. To see again. Our children were disgusted to watch whole roasted pigs being carried into the serving area – again. Bill and I were impressed with the precious gifts bestowed on Dr. Davis. Women danced and sang as they circled around the guests, holding up high their quilt-sized tapa cloths. Each cloth represented days of pounding bark into cloth and then hours of painting traditional designs.
The gift of sight.
Many years later when we were working on the island of Saipan, another distant part of the United States, Bill was invited as the one white guest to accompany a traditional sailing from the distant Micronesian island of Puluwat to Saipan. One of the key navigators, a very old chief, Manipei, was nearly blind because of cataracts. Throughout the days of sailing, this old chief sat on the outrigger night after night watching the sky and adjusting the canoe’s route. The ocean journey was successful. Landing was made. Afterwards the hospital’s eye doctor offered to do the simple surgical procedure, remove cataracts, so Manipei’s vision could be restored to near normal.
The old navigator refused. He was afraid he might never see the stars again.
May my mom’s surgery go easily and well. May I remember from time to time how wonderful it is to see.