All the world’s great religions use the imagery of light overcoming the darkness. Good ruling over evil. Hence the use of so many candles in churches and temples, twinkling away. Then the lighting of candles on the altar during the service of Holy Communion. I was looking out of my back living room window earlier to see the magnificent full Harvest Moon in all its majesty. Over the past month I’ve had good reason to dwell on this theme as I found myself spending many hours sitting in the St Paul’s eye Unit waiting for treatment. I had a scare, having discovered I have an eye condition that if it had been left undetected, I could have lost my sight. Highly treatable, it brought home to me how much we take for granted in this life. I was talking to Sheila, our assistant priest, who is very deaf. She says, bad though it is, at least I can lip read and anticipate people’s facial expressions, appreciate colours and read. A lot more people are partially sighted than totally blind. It’s remarkable how many affected people manage to get round the city with minimal vision, and turn up for hospital appointments unaccompanied. One lady having got two buses and a train!
Forty years ago I worked in the old St Pauls Eye Hospital on Old Hall Street. We are all ever so slightly despairing about the changing and worrying state of our world. How our city has changed in forty years. It was not at all unusual to turn up for duty at 7.30am to see a queue of ten or more in casualty with industrial injuries and seamen with strange eye conditions picked up in foreign parts. Now there is not much industry or foreign sailors. We used to have an exchange of eye trained nurses with St Pauls hospital in Jerusalem. They worked in the hospital and also went out into the countryside taking much needed eye care to remote parts. The Bedouin people if admitted would bring the goats, sheep and hens and keep them under their hospital bed. Instead of a box of chocolates as a ‘Thank You’ the nurses were often given a hen! Sadly all that had to stop with the Israel, Gaza conflict. No more outreach work. So many treatable conditions will leave people permanently blinded. When I feel down about the unnecessary plunge into darkness for so many of the afflicted I think of the evening prayer that aids us against all dangers with hope for better things in the future. ‘Lighten our darkness we beseech thee O Lord and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night’.
(This article by Wendy was originally published as part of St David’s Messenger in October 2014)