“There are many things we should see, but do not. Sometimes we are afraid to see, at other times we resist seeing because we know it will make new demands upon us.”
However, “many in our world recoil from looking at or seeing disability,” Pope said, despite the fact that some form of impairment is inevitable as one ages.
These feelings of discomfort towards others result in “many today remaining blind or vision-impaired when it comes to seeing the dignity and gifts of those who are disabled,” he continued.
Expanding his point, Pope shared a story about his late sister, Mary Anne, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia as a child and spent most of her life in mental institutions and group homes. Mary Anne passed away in 1991, as the result of a fire that she herself likely set.
It was a “great sadness,” said Pope, that it took his sister’s death for him to appreciate her dignity and true suffering. While she was alive, Pope said he did not enjoy talking to her and had complained to his parents when she tried to talk to him.
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“I couldn’t see, I was blind, and in a certain sense I wanted it that way,” he said.
After her death, he was able to view her body, which was scarred by the flames. Due to the fire, the funeral directors were unable to change her facial expression, and “she had clearly died weeping,” he said. Pope, too, wept when he saw his sister.
Although he had previously been blind to his sister’s dignity, “that day, looking one last time at her, I received the gift to see her more as God did.”