I was sitting in a booth drinking sodas with my friends, chatting about the changes World War II had brought to our sleepy little Wyoming town. We spoke of how uniforms transformed boys into handsome men and of the exciting parades we marched in, to and from the depot, each time a soldier came home from or left for the fighting.
As we talked of the changes brought by the war, I had no idea how significant those changes would be for my family. Suddenly my father stood above me, his hand heavy on my shoulder, his face sober. His somber look frightened me and turned my thoughts to my oldest brother, who was among the troops that had just invaded France in an intense battle.
“Come with me,” my father said. As we drove through town, sadness permeated the air in the car. We stopped at the edge of town, and Dad sighed to control his tears. Still gripping the steering wheel with his work-worn hands, he blurted out, “Your brother is blind!”
Shock froze my entire body, and time seemed suspended. The words hung in the still air: “Your brother is blind.”
Blind, blind, blind—the word echoed through my soul. Hot tears burned my cheeks, and I wanted to run from the awful news. My beloved brother, Smith, was blind! I pictured him on his last visit home, his light red hair blowing in the breeze, his eyes sparkling at me. Those twinkling eyes—what did they look like now?
No other words passed between us, and he started the car. When he told Mom the news, she barely flinched. She held her head high and said stoically: “Smith will be all right. Our Father in Heaven will help him handle this.”
As word spread and others lamented that such a fine young man, partway through medical school, was now so badly wounded, my mother constantly cheered them and expressed her belief that Heavenly Father would give all of us the strength we needed.
The first time I saw Smith again was in the Dibble Hospital in California, where many injured and blinded soldiers were sent. A ramrod-straight boy holding a white cane walked up to meet us, blue powder burns and scars covering his face. He stared straight ahead with unseeing eyes, and I ran and hugged him, sobbing hysterically. He patted my back, and whispered in his familiar voice, “I’ve never even cried, Beth, not once.” Then he hugged Mom, and at last she cried.
We met with doctors and therapists, who told us how quickly Smith was responding to rehabilitation and therapy. He would be permanently blind, but his attitude was inspiring many of the other newly blind. Smith never mentioned that his dream of being a doctor had been shattered; instead he talked of going into social work to help the blind. Enthusiastically, he spoke of all that needed to be done and how eager he was to be part of it. Within weeks we returned home.
Words of comfort were frequent and welcome, but some occasionally missed the mark. In one instance an aunt, whose son was held prisoner in Germany, shocked us when she said, “Smith, if you’d had enough faith, you’d have been unharmed, too.” But before my bristling father could respond, my tiny mother stood—all five feet of her height—and, with her hand on Dad’s arm said, “Jesus prayed that his cup could pass from him, but he also prayed, ‘Not my will, but thine be done.’ ” (Luke 22:42.)
That night, before family prayer, Dad said, “If Smith can keep his faith, we can, too. We’ll pray for the strength to bear this tragedy.”
For forty years, Smith has worked with the blind and has inspired them by his own example, an example he attributes to his parents. “They taught me to pray for light and to desire knowledge,” he says. With the light and knowledge he has gained, he walks by faith.
(Beth Shumway Moore)