Maria Kovacs

Maria stands with her dog in front of Niagara Falls at the 2016 Life to the Full Conference.

Raised in Europe for most of my teenage years with sight, the world was beautiful and very bright. Then, in 1965, I came to Canada where I have lived for the past fifty-two years.

At the age of eighteen, I went for my driver’s test. In this moment my world changed forever. I failed the vision test. The trouble with my eyesight continued unraveling until the point it is at today, where I can no longer see.

From 1968 until the time I turned forty, my world was not so bad nor was my eyesight. I held very nice jobs like an interpreter for immigration, a teacher’s assistant, and a store manager. I was doing well even if I had to deal with the loss of my sight in very small increments, as my eyesight slowly deteriorated.  I got married in 1969 and gave birth to two children in the years after that. I ended up getting divorced in 1982 and became a single mom at that time. My children were aged 6 and 9.

In 1990, I was traveling through Europe and became very sick. While I was there, I received a treatment which resulted in further, rapid deterioration of my sight. Not being able to return to Canada right away, my eye started to bleed and the worst was about to happen. The world I once knew was confusing to me because everything I looked at was black and white. When I came back home, I received the news that my world of sight was about to be gone forever.

My first two years were difficult and hard to cope with. It was my brothers and sisters from the church that stood there for me. They helped me to see that just because this was happening to me, I could still have a life worth living.

My first adjustment to living with no sight, and my continued survival, is because my church support at the time was wonderful. Because of them, I became much stronger in the trust I put daily on my Heavenly Father. I slowly became more and more independent. Even though at times I felt as though I was in hell deep down, I knew my Savior was leading me on through it all.

This struggle I had inside my soul was easy for me and my church community to see, but what was not easy to see is how the outside world was viewing me. The loss of my sight made the outside world view me as a person without any abilities, a dependent person, and someone that does not do anything because I had no sight. These attitudes I encountered both added to my struggle and encouraged me to fight my way out of those dark places.

Then in 1992, I moved to a new city. I moved from a place where the people around me were encouraging and caring to a place without this support and encouragement. I felt lonely for a sense of direction and support and was now dealing with learning each daily task again in a new city.

To my surprise, I found myself getting remarried in 1993.

Because I was starting to get bored from not doing very much, I decided to look for a job. Oh, what a nightmare this was! No one around me had any confidence to give me a chance. At times I offered to work for free for a period of one week so I could show the employer that losing sight is not the end of the world. This did not go well and I became discouraged. Because my brothers and sisters in Christ were not there for me during this time, I had to deal with these things by myself, without encouragement and support. After trying for a period of three years, I gave up and decided to do volunteer work instead. Even this was an uphill battle since it took me seven years for someone to give me a chance. Finally, in 1998, The Salvation Army in Maple Ridge opened this door for me. Eventually, other opportunities came along as well.

One of those other doors that opened was for me to volunteer at Discovery Playhouse. I prepared snacks and lunch, set up the equipment for children to play with, and helped with the cleaning. I was filling in for one of the paid staff who went on maternity leave. After volunteering for a month in this position, I asked about getting paid for my work while this woman was on maternity leave. I explained that I had excellent referrals, but when I asked if I could be paid for the job I was doing, which was typically a paid position, they said it was not possible. I found out that shortly after I left this volunteer position, the person who replaced me was paid for the work they did.

One of the things I keep discovering is how I am seen as a person which cannot do anything for herself and depends on others for support because I am blind. This kind of attitude hurts me tremendously because it takes my independence away. My world now is seen through many types of equipment which allows me to be at least eighty percent independent, but the problem is helping others to see my capabilities and not just my disability.

Many years ago, I used to pray to God to heal my blindness because I did not think that I could survive it.

When I could see, my weekends were often spent welcoming people who did not have sight to my home. I helped bring the world “close” to those who did not have sight. It surprised me when I asked certain questions that they did not even know what a tree looked like. So I “saw” for them. I brought the world to them in a different way.

When I became blind, It was a surprise to see other people do for me what I had done for others. They helped the world “come to me” in many different ways. It had come full circle. My church at the time made sure that I did not lose anything around me: trees, flowers, books, walks through the park and many more things. I was sad to not be able to see, but the world was still manageable. 

The move to a new city became a lonely world with no support, and this created many obstacles for me. For example, shopping was no longer manageable because I lost my companion shopper who understood how to help me shop. When a blind person shops, she needs to touch to see what is being offered. My shopping companion understood that. In the new city I moved to, nobody understood this. They would not allow me to touch what was being offered and explore or browse for myself. Instead, I was only offered what the person shopping with me preferred. I no longer had the options I was used to and I no longer had the freedom to browse.

Walking for me is always alone with only my guide dog and at times feels boring and not very eventful. So, what does one do to put a smile on one’s face? For me, gardening is one way but is not always what I love to do. Being close to flowers may bring me closer to God’s creation, but when this is all that life offers it becomes a burden.

Doing volunteer work is another thing that fills my days but as my equipment gets old I must go around and try to find someone to pay for it so that I can continue to do my volunteer work. These are items which are very expensive for someone with a fixed income. Going around asking for help in this way makes one feel like they are begging.

The world closes when the word disability creeps into one’s life because other people in the outside world do not see the abilities before the disabilities. I am a very capable person, but since I have lost my vision I am no longer viewed in this way. 

The person I was is still here, only with a minor problem and that is seeing. I like to be viewed as a capable human being with many good qualities, good morals, and a very capable person to handle what comes my way.

My Heavenly Father heard my prayers but for whatever reason, He chose for me to stay blind. Perhaps even if I get hurt with people’s attitudes, I am also strong enough to fight for my independence along with my Jesus at my side. Would I have ever chosen to be blind? No, but my Heavenly Father gave me what He knew I could handle. All I want for now is to make Him proud. My reward is that He makes me strong and wise to fight side by side with those who do not have Christ guiding them.

My life goes on with my Heavenly Father at my side until the world wants to walk in love side by side with me.