I've been thinking a great deal about scars lately. Maybe because I'm about to get some new ones when I have a hysterectomy early in December to cure (we devoutly hope) my Stage 1 Endometrial Cancer. I know the routine: no eating the preceding day, no wine 48 hours before (sigh), stop taking anti-inflammatories, no shaving, and shower the night before with special scrub brushes, as if I were a prize mare being readied for a grueling race.
After a nervous drive down to the hospital, I will lay my real clothes aside--those which prove I am an actual person--and I will don the terrible Johnny which never covers my ass. Lesson #1 in Vulnerability. The sweet nurses, male and female, will care for me, enfolding me in heated blankets. That's almost worth the price of admission. The anesthesiologist will come in to inform me of what drugs they will use. I will anxiously but chirpily ask for an anti-nausea hit, not because I always throw-up after surgery, but because this is actually worse than surgery to my mind. Lesson #2 in Vulnerability. Then I will bump down the long corridor to the operating room, be wheeled into place and surrounded by angels disguised as doctors and nurses wearing funny, puffy blue hats. Overhead the light is blinding. But good, I think. We don't want any mistakes here. Lesson # 3 in Vulnerability. I will pray silently, maybe even ask out loud for a blessing on those who are about to make new scars on my body.
Before all of this, I pondered on scars; am I the sum of my disasters? Or are all of us part of something wider and bigger? I made a list of my various scars just to figure this out.
--eye surgery at age 5 to cure wandering eyeball--
--scar on left knee from being shot with a .22 rifle, then a tiny mark at the top of my left thigh where the bullet was removed--
--a 2" wide crease on the my right temple where I was thrown out onto the road during a winter accident; yes, of course we had been drinking, and no, we weren't wearing seatbelts--
--a 3" line line at the base of my throat where a diseased parathyroid was removed in 2006--it looks as dangerous and threatening as a knife wound--
--and now 4 tiny incisions for laparoscopic surgery for my hysterectomy--I wonder if they could do a small but cheerful tattoo of a butterfly just below my navel?
That's a respectable number I believe, though I know folks who have had far more. My question is this: into what container do we put these small and large disasters? What holds them in a way so that we can step forward bravely, with confidence, and with faith, not fear?
You know I am going to say "Jesus," "faith," or "She-who-loves-us-beyond-understanding." I have to give these scars over to God to hold in her hands like thistledown, they weigh so little in the scheme of things. And, at the end of my life, I will be like one of those horses who has been in too many races, pushed too hard and too fast, happy to amble into the barn at last to savor my water, my oat mash, and the tender, loving hands of my owner.