Sharon has worked in several jobs at IOB, but found her calling when she was assigned to the pen department. “People may say it’s only making pens but I love it,” she says. “I couldn’t ask for a better supervisor or group of people to work with.”
When you talk with Sharon, she sits still, wearing a slight smile. She speaks softly, but matter-of-factly. Even though she is blind, you get the feeling she is looking you in the eye.
When you ask how she lived through so much hardship, here’s what she says: she just had to. She was not offered a choice.
In 1983, Sharon was dealt the first of a series of blows that would extinguish the spirit of someone less resilient. She was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that can afflict just about any organ. In her case, it damaged her lungs, her liver, and her eyes. “I was seeing pretty well up until 1987,” she says. “Then all of a sudden—darkness.” Sharon had always been healthy and content—a loving mother and a happily married wife; this shock sent her into a tailspin of despair.
But gradually, Sharon’s faith, her family and her friends replenished her spirit and rekindled her natural love of life. She learned that even while struggling with blindness, she got joy from caring for her husband and three children.
In 1999, however, tragedy struck again. Sharon’s beloved husband Ervin died unexpectedly. She had no idea how to keep her household together. Three kids, no husband, no job. Ervin had never allowed her to work after she’d been struck blind, and she had no marketable skills.
“When my husband died, I was angry at God,” Sharon says. “How could He take Ervin from us? I was tired of the trials.”
The kids, of course, still needed care. And Sharon realized, again, that despair was not an option. “It took me a while to grasp that I had to go on. But with the help of my faith, to put it bluntly, I sucked it up.” She got help and love from friends and family, and gradually got back on her feet. In 2001, Sharon learned about the opportunities at IOB and landed a job there.
For several years, the sun was shining. Sharon loved her work, she loved her church, and raising her kids was more rewarding than ever. But in 2007, Sharon took another hit; she suffered a collapsed lung due to lymphoma. And the following year she was diagnosed with lung cancer.
But of course, a woman like this knows how to persevere. The cancer is currently in remission as Sharon goes in for regular “maintenance chemo.” She doesn’t think about it much, nor about why she has been through so much. She says, “I don’t have time to wonder.”
Despite everything, Sharon is happy for what she has. All these years later, she still loves her job. “I look forward to coming to work every day. The people I work with are a group of such good people. I just love them to pieces.” She proudly brings up her department’s recent achievement of a million dollars in sales. “People really like these pens.”
She managed to raise her kids and today the three of them are well-educated, happy adults. They regularly tell Sharon how proud they are that she was such a good mother while facing such adversity.
She prays a lot, and she remembers her loving husband. “I know he’s looking over us and he’s proud. It was the strength he had that was passed down to the kids and me.”
Looking back at both the trials and the love, Sharon has this to say: “I’m blessed.”