After an hour, we finally arrived at our family reunion in a canyon near Salt Lake City, and I had one thing on my mind. I had to find the restroom.
Before we joined my husband’s family members around the campfire, we detoured into the cabin. I opened the bathroom door, then closed and locked it. I leaned my cane in the corner and got all ready to sit on the toilet. You know how you do. However, as I was sitting down, I reached out my hand to find the toilet and felt instead . . . a head of hair! Needless to say, I yanked up my pants extremely quickly.
Noting the altitude of the head, I deduced that it was a young head, which was probably a bit disturbed by what had flashed before its eyes. Talk about hindsight.
Trying to reassure my new friend, I inquired, “Was that scary?”
It spoke! The head could speak! Why it hadn’t found its voice earlier, I’m not sure, but I was glad to hear it nonetheless. After apologizing, I left my bathroom buddy and walked out to the group—shaking my head in disbelief. When they saw me approach, the family asked me what was wrong.
“I’ll pay for therapy,” I said. “Some little girl in the bathroom is going to need it.”
Since I lost my vision in 2003, there have been scores of situations that could have driven me underneath my bed in complete humiliation; however, I have chosen to remain upright and to simply laugh. Of course, not all my experiences have been funny. In fact, when I was diagnosed with cancer and was told that my only functioning eye would have to be removed, I never thought I would laugh again.
After many surgeries, hospitalizations, and seemingly endless physical and emotional pain, I was devastated. I was positive that my personality and will to live had been removed along with my eye.
It took over a year and a half, but I eventually found my footing in my dark world and was able to see that life was still worth living—even enjoying.
One thing that aided me in this healing process was laughter. I can still remember the first time I laughed about blindness. I was at church, and a woman asked me if I had taught my children sign language yet. When I told her, with a straight face, that I had not, and asked her why, she replied, “So you can communicate.” Now, that’s funny! Each of us experiences real feelings of discouragement, anger, fear, sorrow, grief and pain as we go through the trials of mortality. We cannot always laugh away the difficulties, but if we can find humor in the small things, our problems can become easier to bear. Laughter can keep us from becoming paralyzed by our emotions, give us much-needed perspective, and assist us in turning to Christ as we learn that the Lord wants us to be happy even when life is overwhelmingly difficult.
When I first went blind, I desperately missed light. I missed the brightness of the sun that enabled me to see so many wonderful things; however, I have learned that I still have the light of the Son to warm, comfort and direct me. My job is to make sure that I am in a position to feel it. I need to face the Son as I used to face the sun. If I remain stuck in my emotions, I am missing out on the light that I so desparately need. If we can allow ourselves to laugh, we will free ourselves from emotional paralysis and find strength in the light of the Son.
Although I have adjusted to my blindness, there are still times when I long for my eyesight. There are days when I think, “This is so stupid! I just want to see!” As I work through the emotions, turn myself to the Savior and try to live the life I have been granted, I am able to move forward. No, it’s not easy, but I am sure collecting great material for a stand-up comedy routine.
Finding humor when things go wrong has helped me to leave the comfort zone of my home and to share my story and testimony with others. It’s a challenge to blindly step into unfamiliar environments, but laughter pulls me through my hesitation, and, sometimes, even through fear.
One particular day, I did a whole lot of laughing. Our plane was to leave at seven o’clock in the morning, so my friend Hilary and I planned on leaving our homes in Lehi at five in order to be at the Salt Lake City Airport by six. We were to participate in a Time Out for Women event in Pittsburgh, and I worked hard to ensure that I hadn’t forgotten anything. I was all ready and packed when Hilary and her husband, Tim, came to pick me up. Tim dropped us off at the airport, and everything went smoothly until we checked in.
Hilary said casually, “Kris, have you done something to your eye?” Kind of like someone might say, “Have you lost weight,” or, “Have you changed your hair? Because you look different.” I reached up to touch my eye prosthesis. To my horror, I had no eyeball.
Now, the prosthesis I wear on my right side is made from silicone, and it adheres to the skin covering my eye socket. Because of the way my eye had to be removed when I had cancer, I was unable to wear a normal artificial eye. With this ocular prosthesis, the eyeball can be inserted and removed from the silicone and can be transferred to my alternate when necessary. I had grabbed the wrong prosthesis—the one that didn’t have the vitally important eyeball inside.
I burst out laughing. What was I going to do? I couldn’t travel across the country and speak to thousands of women in Pittsburgh with no eyeball! I mean, there is a limit to using visual aids. Luckily I had remembered my thinking cap, and so I suggested a plan.
Hilary called Tim and said, “Uh, honey, Kris forgot her eyeball. Can you go get it?” I was laughing loudly in the background and Hilary started busting up as well.
I phoned my husband, James, woke him up, and—between spurts of laughter—asked him to grab my eye and meet Tim halfway. They would make the handoff and Tim would race it back to us at the airport—hopefully before our plane left.
Next, Hilary and I made our way to the security area, and Hilary tried to explain to the security worker that she would need to come back through after taking me to the gate. “Um, my friend is blind and has forgotten her eye at home. I have to meet my husband out front to get it. Will I be able to get back through quickly, or will I have to go back through the whole security check?”
I tried to do my part by looking blind. I didn’t need to do much. After all, I had a fake-looking plastic thing with a gaping socket glued to my face. I’m sure the security guard thought he had now seen everything. He wasn’t moved, and he explained very solemnly what she would need to do. We were then off to the gate.
I wasn’t going to suffer through another embarrassing explanation, so I sat with some of the other Time Out for Women speakers who had already arrived while Hilary spoke with the gate agent. She went through the whole “My friend is blind and left her eyeball at home” story. Hilary asked them to please hold the plane for her, and then she began her part of the last leg of the eyeball relay.
Soon, our flight was called, and my friend Mary Ellen and I tried to carry our luggage and Hilary’s to the gate, where we ran into a slight problem.
“Excuse me,” the airline worker said. “You may not take that many bags on board.”
Then, from across the way, the agent Hilary had spoken with called out, “It’s all right. She’s the one without the eyeball.”
Once seated on the plane, I tried to pull myself together. I tried not to worry, but I imagined James and Tim passing each other going opposite ways on the freeway, throwing the prosthesis across the median like a football. (Little did I know that James hadn’t bothered to put the eye in a bag or anything. He just plopped it into Tim’s hand and said, “It’s sturdy!” Poor Tim.)
I prayed that, wherever they met, the handoff would be made in time for Hilary to catch the plane, and eventually she arrived. Thank heavens the eyeball relay was successful and over!
It would certainly be wonderful if my embarrassing moments were over, but I know there are plenty more to come. Life has a way of throwing all sorts of situations at us, and if we can find a way to laugh, we can handle them joyfully. Our difficulties and emotions don’t need to have power over us, and by finding humor amidst the trial, we can be free to face the light of the Son.
Kris Belcher is the author of the new book Facing the Son .