Deaf-blind Fr Cyril Axelrod launches new book
The last thing Fr Cyril Axelrod saw before he finally went blind was the light of a candle which he had lit. The light faded as his sight went, he recalled.
The Johannesburg-born Redemptorist priest spoke about his deaf-blindness at the February 16 launch of his new autobiographical book Still On the Journey in Cape Town. The book, published by Redemptorist Pastoral Publication, is a follow-up to his 2005 memoirs And the Journey Begins. It was edited by Fr Axelrod’s close friend Fr Larry Kaufmann CSsR.
Fr Axelrod was born deaf and from the 1990s progessively lost his sight, resulting in total blindness in 2001. He now lives on his own in London.
He told the launch that he hopes that his book will open people’s eyes to what it means to be deaf and blind, a condition that he said is not well understood. He also hoped that the book might help people feel more comfortable with disability.
He said that he discerns a grace in being deaf-blind. “Disability is part of the gift of life…which opens your eyes and ears to understand what others need from you,” he told the launch.
Fr Axelrod regaled the guests with amusing anecdotes from his life, many of which are told in the book. One concerned the story of a box of Turkish delight that was kept in a bar fridge in his Istanbul hotel room. When he decided to treat himself to the sweets, he took a box out of the fridge and opened it. “But the sweets were tasting funny,” he recalled. It turned out that box he had opened contained condoms.
Fr Axelrod, who turns 80 on February 24, also talked about how he managed to climb the ancient site of Machu Picchu in Peru — a photo of him at the summit illustrates the cover of his new book.
He also explained the technique by which he creates his paintings, which were collated in a book with reflections published in 2021, titled Light in Silent Darkness , as we reported in January 2021.
The Southern Cross interviewed Fr Axelrod in the February 2021 issue.