With wafts of delicious smells coursing through the kitchen, Laura Revan, 50, begins chopping a green pepper — blindfolded. And she does so with ease, skill and a big smile on her face.
She’s busy preparing her graduation facmeal for 75 people as she parts from nine months of training at the Colorado School for the Blind, where she’s learned to cope with her handicap, and re-learn ordinary tasks — such as cooking — as a person with no sight.
And through it all, she went from struggling in her faith and not wanting to get out of bed every day to a woman who “sees” with the eyes of faith much more clearly.
But she wasn’t always that way.
Two years ago, life looked ordinary for Revan, and she was busy, as we are today, preparing for the holidays. It was Dec. 15, and always a fan of the Christmas season, she was shopping for a tree — until she suddenly blacked out.
Later, she went to the emergency room only to discover she had pneumonia, and later, ovarian cysts that were treated with chemotherapy and radiation to make sure it wasn’t cancer or that it hadn’t spread, Revan said.
As a result of the cancer treatments, her retina detached and she went blind.
“It was a really, really rough time. The doctors [didn’t think I would live long], and they couldn’t figure out what was going on or how to help me,” she said.
Her outlook changed when she had a dream.
She was standing at heaven’s gates trying to get in, but they wouldn’t open for her. Eventually, God came out to meet her.
“He holds my hand and he walks me to a bench right outside, and he said, ‘What are you doing? You’re giving up, it’s not your time, I’m not ready for you yet,’” Revan recounted. “And I said, ‘But it hurts, it’s so hard.’ And he said, ‘I have so much work for you! You’re going to help people, you’re going to encourage people, you’re going to bring people closer to me.’”
He assured her that she was going to be fine and that she would be protected, and she woke up feeling relieved and relaxed.
But surviving meant a lot of dark days ahead. Revan was now completely blind, and the doctors were ready to put her on hospice. Eventually she pulled through and went home, but her struggles continued, especially as she wrestled to accept this new suffering of blindness on top of everything else she had already been through, she said.
“I’ve been through a lot, my house burned down and I lost everything, then my mom passed away and my fiancé passed away, and it was just a lot of, ‘God, how strong do you think I am,’” Revan said. “He said, ‘I give my toughest battles to my strongest soldiers.’ I lost my faith, I just prayed for God to just take me. [But] I’ve always been a very strong, independent person, I fight to the end.”
…And he said, ‘I have so much work for you! You’re going to help people, you’re going to encourage people, you’re going to bring people closer to me.’”
“I was angry, I was ready to give up, but I knew I’ve fought too hard to give up,” she continued. “I just continued praying and I made a promise to God, I said, you get me through this, and every night I’m going to get down on my knees and I’m going to pray and thank you, and every morning I wake up, I’m going to say thank you, and I’ve been doing that now for about two years.”
As she continued to push through every day, and some were harder than others, she began doing research on living with blindness.
“I knew this is a new path he had put me on, I needed to continue to live, this is just a test, a season,” Revan said. “So I’m going to do what I have to do until the next season comes. And that’s when I found the Colorado School for the Blind, and I’m just ready to live life, because there’s life out there.”
The determination to “live life,” along with her faith in God, pushed Revan to keep going and to hope that she might be able to encourage others along the way.
“I felt his presence. He was always there,” she explained. “Anytime I thought about giving up or just not wanting to eat or leave my bed, it was a presence that would always be there with me to make me feel calm.”
A new way of seeing
After coming to the Colorado School for the Blind, Revan began learning a whole new way of living: She learned how to cook, how to travel in a city and cross traffic, using various indicators to help her navigate. She learned Braille, re-learned how to use phones and computers, and even did a woodshop project.
“It was like learning to read and write all over again,” she said.
Not long after she began, she called parishes to find a place to attend Sunday Mass. Eventually, she was connected to St. Mary’s Parish in Littleton through one of their ministries, Mother of Mercy, which connects parishioners with people in need to help provide for them.
Revan met Rachel Guerrera, a mother of two girls who gave her rides to Sunday Mass, and a friendship began.
“One of the biggest things [that inspires us] is her dignity,” Guerrera said. “She accepts help, and yet she is very dignified, she isn’t self-deprecating and doesn’t complain about what a handicap it is.”
“She says it’s because of her faith that she can ‘see’ what she has, and she’s grateful,” she added. “She does what she needs to do and that’s very inspiring to me.”
In addition to all of the practical skills Revan has learned while at the school, she’s learned just as much, if not more, about herself and about God.
“I learned about my strength, I learned how to be patient, that one is still hard. I’ve learned to not give up and stay close to my family and it’s taught me to continue pushing to make sure I get them on the right path,” she said.
I learned that all things are possible through him…”
“I learned that all things are possible through him, just believe in him and keep the faith, praying and asking him,” Revan continued. “And I’ve been giving it all to him. He’s an awesome God. He showed me who he is. He’s told me that I’m his child and made in his image, and I know how to perform through him.”
After graduating Nov. 30, Revan plans to go back to Georgia, where she is from, to be with her family and potentially go back to school to pursue a degree in counseling.
“There’s so much more life out there, even if you’ve lost one sense, you can still live and love life,” she said. “And I tell God, ‘Come on, get up, we’re going.’ I have a Guardian Angel [medal] that I keep with me, and I say, ‘Come on, I need you right now.’ I’ve done things that I didn’t think I could.”