MADISON – Beatrice Guzzi has lived a full life – raising six children, practicing Christianity as a born-again Christian for 44 years and writing a memoir – all while blind.
She grew up in Hoboken and moved to Chatham in 1965, then to Florham Park in 1976. She and her husband moved to Madison in 2018.
She was 23 years old and newly married when she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a rare genetic disorder that causes gradual blindness because of deterioration of the retina.
While initially devastated at the diagnosis, she was determined to live a full, independent life, including becoming a mother.
“I called up the Commission of the Blind to learn how to read and write Braille and use a cane,” she explained. “It was no joke crossing Main Street totally blind with a cane! But I did. I was determined. I wanted to have children and I wanted to show the Lord I could do it. I prayed for strength and courage. So we went on to have six kids.”
Guzzi was raised as a Catholic, then became a born-again Christian in 1976 when she heard a man’s testimony on “The 700 Club” on the Christian Broadcasting Network. At that moment, she prayed for the same reprieve and inner peace that the man received.
“Ever since then, I’ve been flying high,” she said. “I’m so happy that I have the Lord in me. You never feel alone. You feel like the Lord is with you all the time. You can ask Him anything and He will help you. That’s how I got my courage and my strength!”
That determination is reflected in her 2019 memoir, “I Walk By Faith, Not By Sight.”
She began writing it in 1999 and updated it infrequently over 15 years, never intending to publish it. “I’d go months before I’d think to write about something,” she said.
During those 15 years, she held tightly to her faith as she navigated highs and lows in her life. She gave birth to and raised four sons and twin daughters without ever seeing their faces.
“I picture them the way I think they are. I say, ‘I don’t see them with my eyes, I see them with my heart.’ ”
Along with learning Braille and using a cane, she adopted a guide dog at the Seeing Eye in Morris Township to continue to live independently. She spent three weeks learning to bond with the dog and navigate Morristown.
Soon after that, her husband, Jim, was diagnosed with leukemia.
To support her family financially, Guzzi taught herself how to use a computer at a rehabilitation center in Denville and worked full-time at the American Automobile Association for six years while juggling housework and caring for her husband and children.
While her husband made a full recovery, going into remission three years after his diagnosis, she too received a cancer diagnosis. She has since been in remission for seven years after chemotherapy and a stem-cell transplant.
Guzzi credits her faith for keeping her going, but she also had a support network in the Bible study group she has been a part of since 1976.
During the first eight months of her twin daughters’ lives, when they could not sleep through the night, members of the group pitched in.
“I have the most wonderful friends,” she said. “My Bible group, that’s my moral support. Someone would come in every day and bring dinner or help with the babies … . About 40 people came throughout those eight months to help me. People came from New Providence, Chatham, Madison, Florham Park.”
As a blind mother, Guzzi knew not to spoil her children. Her sons helped with the housework, helped take care of their father while he had leukemia and took care of the girls after they were born.
Her oldest son, Jay, encouraged her to publish her book, edited the drafts and found a publisher, Christian Faith Publishers in Pennsylvania.
Two months after he sent in the draft, the book was published.
The Guzzi children live near their parents and have made their health and safety a priority during the coronavirus pandemic. They each took turns grocery shopping for them during the spring.
Now, the couple are enjoying seeing their children and grandchildren again.
“I missed them terribly, but now it’s getting easier,” Guzzi said, referring to her grandchildren. “I can hug them; my kids won’t let me kiss them. My kids are so great. They’re such wonderful children.”
She made it clear that she did not write her memoir for herself but in gratitude for her faith.
“I’m not giving myself credit because if it wasn’t for Jesus I could not do what I did,” she said. “I want to give Him all the honor and glory and that’s why I wrote the book … . And hopefully that people would come to the Lord like I did and depend upon Him like I did.”
“And here I am at this age and I’m still going strong,” she added.