Two years ago I sat on a lumpy ceramic chair, utterly helpless as I watched my active mom lying in pain on a hospital bed.
She’d just had her bum hip replaced, and everyone assumed it would be a textbook case. After all, Mom was in shape and otherwise healthy. But from day one post-op, we seemed to encounter one fiasco after the next. First there was the morphine, which sent Mom’s body into convulsive, hallucinatory panics every thirty minutes. Then, almost immediately after surgery, Mom sensed that something was wrong with her leg—not her hip, but her leg. She asked the doctors and nurses about it, but they all assured her this was normal pain.
A couple of days later, though, once the morphine had finally worn off, she had my dad and me take a look at the leg that was bothering her. To our horror, we saw what amounted to a partial tourniquet on her thigh. The compression socks—intended to prevent blood clots—had been put on wrong. Instead of being smooth all the way up her leg, they had gotten bunched tightly around her skin. And now, wrapping all the way around her thigh, was a gaping wound…like the worst rope burn you’ve ever seen.
Suddenly there was a flurry of activity around Mom’s hospital bed, and with it multiple rounds of blame transfer. In addition to the problem of the wound itself, the doctors were concerned about the possibility of infection. If this cut became infected, it would go directly to that susceptible new incision…and she’d be back to square one, needing to have the hip replaced all over again.
I stayed at home with Mom the week after her surgery to help her with basic tasks like putting on her shoes, going up the stairs, and getting into bed. Oh, and putting antibiotic ointment on that laceration. One day as I was doing wound duty, Mom asked me how it looked. I went through the checklist given to me by the medical team: the skin was turning a healthy pink, it was no longer oozing, and it didn’t smell necrotic. Check, check, check.
Mom let out the oxygen she’d been holding in. Things were starting to look up, I thought. Then she said, “No one’s talking about this, but there’s going to be a huge scar, isn’t there.” I inspected the ugly red mark winding its way around her left thigh. I swallowed. My mom, the synchronized swimmer with the fantastic legs, even as a grandma. “Yes,” I whispered. “I’m so sorry.”
On my last day with Mom before I headed home, she looked up from the hospital papers she was paging through. I was startled to see her eyes brimming over with tears. “Every time I see this scar from now on…” Her throat constricted. What will she say once she finds her voice again? I wondered. Would the scar remind her of the negligence of the nurse who put on the compression socks incorrectly? Or the doctor who failed to listen when she voiced her concerns? Or would it trigger the awful days in the hospital under the influence of the body- and mind-ravaging drugs?
I was floored when these words came out of her mouth instead: “Every time I see this scar, it will remind me of the way God took care of me.”
Not so different from Jacob, I guess, who had some hip surgery of his own. After wrestling with God (Genesis 32:22-32), Jacob’s hip was wrenched, and he walked with a permanent limp from that day forward. No doubt his tweaked hip was a tangible reminder of his encounter with a God who doesn’t usually show up so palpably.
So, Mom, I want what you have. Not a new hip, per se. (I’m hoping this condition isn’t genetic, as the surgeon implied.) But I do want your perspective on scars. That it’s not so much about what happened in the first place or who inflicted the wound. It’s really about who healed it.
Until the day there is no more crying or pain, may my scars and remind me of the one who was there with me when I got hurt in the first place, the one who is still with me now.
He’s also the God who knows what it feels like. After all, on the palms of his hands, he has two jagged scars of his own.
I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.