Joy. Pure unbridled joy. That was my experience of walking into Jeannette Simpson’s quaint room at the Mullen Home, a nursing home operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Jeannette has been a resident at the Mullen home for roughly twenty years and is currently living in the assisted-living wing, the “halfway house” as she calls it. “We’re prayed right up by the sisters,” she remarked to me when discussing the progression of room assignments at the Mullen Home. The elderly who are in greater need of care are moved from assisted-living to the first floor of the nursing home and then on to the second floor (closer to heaven) as their health deteriorates. When the Lord calls them home, they have already been on the upward journey toward him.
Last year Jeannette, although in the assisted living wing, had been getting progressively worse due to her falling eyesight. She has been legally blind in her right eye since she was a child and lives with macular degeneration in her left eye. She wore a visor and dark glasses to avoid bright lights and glare because they caused her pain. Last year she discovered that her left eye had a cataract and her vision plummeted even more. She recalls only being able to see a dark line when looking at the crucifix and couldn’t even see the priest when he presided at Mass. This loss of sight also affected her very loving nature. Jeannette, who once was very outgoing and wanted to visit with everyone (she loved to share her happiness with others through hugs), had begun to shy away from the people she wanted to love. She began to avoid crowds, use the back elevator, and even stay away from the auditorium out of fear because she couldn’t see.
She recalls that it was a “very dark time” and a “scary time.” Even amidst this struggle though, Jeannette didn’t lose faith. She saw her loss of eyesight as a gift from the Lord. She commented, “It wasn’t a bad thing. It was the Lord asking me if I was able to handle it.” She saw her condition as Job, in the bible, saw his condition, “We accept the good things, why not the bad?” (Job 2:10).
She did not sit idly and let her condition worsen, however. She went to a local doctor to inquire about getting the cataract removed to recover even just a little of her eyesight. Jeannette hoped to recover her sight from simply a few months prior, which still wouldn’t have been great, but better than being completely blind. Unfortunately, because of her chronic bronchitis, the first doctor she visited refused to look at her eye to remove the cataract because she wouldn’t have been able to lie down for the procedure without coughing. Jeannette began to discuss this setback with her sister, Grace, she told her personal doctor in Utah about the situation. Grace’s doctor knew a doctor here in Denver, Dr. Todd Maus, who is Catholic and an eye surgeon and got in touch with him and shared with him the story.
Dr. Maus agreed to visit with Jeannette and sat down with her to discuss her condition. He was happy to work with Jeannette and was willing to work around the obstacle of her bronchitis. After a short time, Jeannette went in for surgery and didn’t cough at all throughout the operation. Dr. Maus successfully removed the cataract and sent Jeannette home. Jeannette’s eyesight slowly recovered as expected, but then as time went by her sight progressively improved more and more. Her eyesight improved so much during her recovery that she was shocked by how clearly she could see and, in addition, she realized she didn’t need to avoid bright lights like before. She no longer needed her visor and dark glasses. The surgery that was only supposed to have just returned her sight to minimal had done more than expected; it had returned her sight fully to her left eye. Additionally, simply removing the cataract wasn’t supposed to give her the ability to view bright lights without distress, but after the surgery she was miraculously able to. Dr. Maus was completely astounded by this and claimed that he didn’t know what fully happened. He told Jeannette that he simply removed the cataract, and that whatever happened in addition must have been the Lord, not him. Jeannette told me, “Our Lord worked through his hands,” and she clearly sees how God worked a miracle in her during that surgery. Jeannette didn’t expect to recover her eyesight like she did and was content to settle for diminished vision using her visor and dark glasses. God chose to give her this healing miracle and Jeannette is thrilled by His gift. Her visor now hangs on her wall unused.
This miracle has done more than simply allowing Jeannette to return to a life of some normalcy, though. Rather, it has returned the outgoing person of Jeanette who gives hugs to all that stop by and shares Christ’s love through her outgoing personality. Jeannette’s faith and trust that God was solely in charge is undeniable and the graces that have come to her since this miracle are too numerous to count. Miracles always point to Jesus and our salvation for those with the eyes of faith to see it and this miracle is no different. It is touching other people’s lives.
Her healing has given the rest of us a miraculous gift as well. It has given us the witness of the amazing love that Jesus has for us through the person of Jeannette. Jeannette is a great example of how to live a life of love in trusting completely in the Lord. That is the bigger miracle here. Her story is being told and shared and all those who stop to visit her are experiencing Christ’s salvific love. Through Jeannette’s faith this miracle draws us into the experience of love and ushers us towards Christ as our redeemer and friend. And Jeanette is only too happy to be a conduit of Christ’s love, especially if she can share it with hugs. I, personally, am only too happy to oblige and hope that everyone will stop by to visit Jeannette and to experience her joy like I have. You will be transformed by her story, but even more so by her joy, I promise.
Ending by Jeannette herself: “The Lord has done great things for me, and I am filled with joy!”