Ever since she’d gone completely blind, Cynthia had sharpened her other senses and even developed a ‘sixth sense’ that gave her intuitions of future events.
On Thursday, May 19th 2011 Cynthia felt a sickening premonition that something terrible would happen on Saturday, May 21st.
She called her Rabbi, “I think Saturday will be the worst day of my life.”
“You’ll be fine.”
After speaking with her Rabbi, Cynthia called her twin brother Jacob and repeated the premonition to him.
“Stop worrying so much.”
But everyone knew Cynthia had intuited things correctly before. Jacob picked up the phone and called the Rabbi. “If my sister is right, and something bad does happen on Saturday.” He said. “Please take care of her.”
It was Saturday evening and so far the ‘worst day of her life’ had been uneventful. But now Jacob was late for their planned six o’clock dinner. Cynthia scanned her fingers over the coffee table, feeling for her cellphone. When she found it she dialed Jacob. The phone rang a couple times and then went to voicemail.
Cynthia and Jacob’s apartments were right next to each other, but walking over was not so easy for a blind woman. Cynthia placed her phone on the coffee table and decided to wait another fifteen minutes before calling again.
In February of 1988 Cynthia was thriving in her role as an elementary school English teacher. But she’d been annoyed by a persistent cough, so her doctor prescribed her a cough syrup. She took the cough syrup on February 28th and that night she awoke to a pounding headache and a feeling of enormous pressure in her eyes, which were red and bulging. Shortly thereafter her vision blurred and it felt like someone was lowering a black curtain over her eyes. Her father rushed her to the hospital where doctors told Cynthia that an unknown allergic reaction had raised her inter-ocular pressure to dangerous levels. The emergency iridectomy was unsuccessful and the optic nerve was irreparably damaged. At the age of thirty-eight Cynthia literally went completely blind overnight.
That night one of the nurses leaned over Cynthia’s bed.
“Your life is ruined.”
“No it's not.” Cynthia replied defiantly. “I still have goals and ambitions. I will not let this blindness define my life.”
Over the next few weeks Cynthia grappled to make sense of her new world – she was enveloped in darkness and without a clear sense of purpose. She had to leave her teaching career. Her boyfriend broke up with her. Her cousins and extended family members stopped visiting. But Cynthia remembered a lesson her grandmother had taught her: “No matter what happens in life be strong, because God helps those who are strong.”
Cynthia enrolled in the Hadley School for the Blind, took sixty-three courses in various disciplines and was named the student of the year. She learned how to live in darkness. How to read braille. How to wear only neutral colors so she'd always match. How to map out a diagram of a room in her head.
Since she couldn’t work with her disability, she became a volunteer at the Dellamonica Senior Center during the day. At night she called homebound ‘Meals-On-Wheels’ recipients to keep them company.
Another fifteen minutes passed and Cynthia dialed her brother again. Again the phone rang and went to voicemail. Cynthia pushed herself off the couch and decided to visit Jacob’s apartment to see if he’d fallen asleep.
Cynthia walked through her apartment and then her brother’s with a rising sense of dread. It was not like him to be late for dinner. She’d searched through his whole apartment, softly calling his name, but he was nowhere to be found. Her sixth sense told her that Jacob was not stuck in traffic. Something was wrong. She called security and when security arrived they confirmed what Cynthia had already known since May 19th: her twin brother was dead on the floor of the apartment she’d been searching through for fifteen minutes.
After the death of Jacob, Cynthia was all alone in the world. But she didn’t let the loss of her brother interfere with her efforts to make a difference in the lives of others. She continued volunteering, logging over 17,000 volunteer hours over the course of her twenty-one years volunteering at the senior center, a record that earned her the 114th Civilian Observation Patrol Presidential Award from Congress member Carolyn Maloney, a proclamation from then Speaker of the New York City council Christine Quinn, and a standing ovation in front of 54,000 cheering fans at Yankee Stadium.
Goose Chronicles Outtakes:
“How are you able to be so strong?”
“Life is like a baseball game, if you don't succeed it means you didn't see all your innings yet.”
“If you could go back in time, would you change going blind?”
“If someone could snap their fingers and allow you to see again, would you want it?”
“No. I'm used to my life. If I could see I would have to re-learn everything. To read. To identify colors and shapes. I'm too old to learn all that stuff.”
“What is the last thing you saw before going blind?”
“A spoon, a glass and a bottle of cough syrup.”
“If there was one last thing you could see, what would it be?”
“A rainbow because it signifies hope and renewal.”