by Dan Facchini
From the Editor: This article is reprinted from the fall edition of The Sounding Board, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey. Here is how it was introduced by the editor:
Editor’s Note: It is with much sadness that we report the untimely death of Tara Carty on July 11, 2016. An NFB national and state scholarship winner, Tara was an active member of the NFBNJ. Tara was an inspiration to all who knew her. She will be missed. The following article tells of Tara’s many challenges, her indomitable spirit, her life philosophy, and her kindness. Here is what Dan says about the love of his life:
My wife Tara was like any other woman of the world: she loved to go shopping, get her nails done, and she enjoyed going to the malls with her grandmother. Her home was very important to her. She loved to decorate for the holidays, especially Christmas, and one of her favorite things to do was to have friends and family over for holidays, backyard parties, and just having a good time.
One of Tara’s lifelong dreams was to complete college after leaving Boston College in her second semester when she was diagnosed with renal failure as a complication of diabetes. This dream came true when she graduated from Caldwell College in 2013 with a 4.0 GPA. Another of Tara’s dreams was to go to Disney World as an adult. This dream came true in 2016. We went to the national convention, and we also went to Disney. Like they always say, “All your dreams come true in Disney.” This year’s convention will be the most memorable for me because another of Tara’s dreams came true. I felt her life was complete, and she was finally happy and at peace.
My introduction to the NFB dates back about twenty years. That was my first state convention, and it was there and then that I was introduced to a whole new world. I no longer felt I was powerless against this blindness. Ever since that day, the NFB has changed my way of thinking about most everything. I was no longer an angry man with no direction. It led me to a good job, and I again had purpose. I became a member, then became a chapter president, and now I sit on the board of the NFBNJ. I share with others that being blind doesn't mean we have to stop doing the things we love. We can do anything if we put our minds to it. A blind person can do just fine in a sighted world. Independence and success are ours for the taking.
The biggest change in my life came in November of 2009 at our state convention. It was there that I met the most amazing young lady, Tara Carty. Tara was a national and state scholarship winner that year. On Friday, November 6, 2009, in Clark, New Jersey, at the state dinner, things changed in my life forever. After I heard Tara speak, I just knew I had to meet her and get to know more about her.
Now here was a person who had just recently lost her sight and had other major health issues due to diabetes, but she still had the most amazing outlook on life. You could tell whenever Tara spoke that she had the biggest smile on her face, and she was glowing. Between her smile and her attitude, she would just light up the room, and that very night she lit up my heart as well. I remember going up to her to introduce myself, and I was so nervous. That night we just talked and got to know more about one another, and the more she spoke, the more I fell in love.
For those members throughout the state who thought they knew me, thought I was a little rough around the edges and not the one for Tara because we came from two different sides of the tracks, I want you to know you had nothing to worry about. Tara saw me for who I really was. Tara was one of the few people I ever met who saw with her heart and not with her eyes. She could talk to a person, listen to them, and decide what kind of a person they really were.
In Tara’s scholarship application, she wrote that she sees with her heart, and she sees people for their personalities, not for what they look like. Well, it was a good thing for me that she did not judge me by what I looked like!
That year at the state convention, we had a “Kiss the Frog” fundraiser. It was between Joe Ruffalo and me, and at the last minute Tara took her last ten dollars and put it on Joe. She said she did not want me kissing anyone else but her. Well, truth be told, neither did I!
As two blind people we were able to teach one another so many things. I can honestly say that Tara made me a better person and taught me how to experience life more fully. There were so many things we did in the short time we had together, and when I was with her, I was never afraid to do anything. I don’t think I could have learned or done more in a lifetime with anyone else.
We enjoyed traveling. Of course we went to NFB national conventions. We also went to Saint Croix on a wonderful vacation, and then there were so many weekend getaways for when we just wanted to be alone and forget about everything else in the world.
The happiest day of my life was when I took her hand at our fairy tale wedding, and we vowed to spend each and every day together from that day forward for as long as we lived.
The reason I’m sharing the story of my life with Tara is because I think sometimes people think of the NFB as a place only for business and to get things done in the state, or in Washington on behalf of the blind and their issues. That is part of what the organization does, and thank God for how well we do it, but it isn’t the only thing the NFB does. The NFB is a place where people come as strangers who share a disability, but leave as part of a family that will always be there—offering support and advice, personally, emotionally, or yes, the practical necessities too.
So I will leave you with this testimony: I went from being a rough, tough exterior guy, mad at the universe for taking my sight, to a successful businessman in the Blind Merchants Division of the NFB. This enabled me to buy a perfect home for my lovely Tara, support the both of us in a way I could not have done if the NFB wasn’t there to guide me, but more than even that, it gave me a home and a family in the organization. These folks were there the day I met my Tara, and they were there holding me up the day I had to say my goodbyes to her.
My life is richer because of Tara, along with the list of friends and fellow Federationists who fill my life. These people are the greatest gift of all.
A friend shared this quote with me, and I’d like to end with it, since it sort of says what I’ve been trying to convey about the less discussed side of the NFB: “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”—Maya Angelou