My, it was brisk; for a metro New York night sky is was unfamiliarly dark and the stars seemed to be particularly visible. Much to my chagrin, Em disappeared into the night in hot pursuit (I believe) of either a cat or a rabbit both of which abound in the rehabilitated army officers housing where I live, known in local terms as Camp Shanks. It's after 2am and would be a decidedly poor idea to start whistling loudly or barking out her name, so I take the quiet approach, head back into the house for a cap, sweatshirt and flashlight. For about 20 minutes I attempted to lure Miss Em back from wherever she shot off to... to no avail. Cutting off the 'torch' I move to my front steps and sit down for a few moments, hoping she will head back this way of her own volition.
I look back up at the stars... I am pulled up to a night in 1970 looking up to similar sky at about this time of year. I had moved away from my parent's home was sharing a furnished apartment with a young woman I had gone to high school with. Money was tight; K's designer luggage at the time was a series of paper bags branded with the logos of all local grocery stores.
In this environment I had a stroke of genius and decided to buy a bicycle and pedal to work rather than spend the money on gas. My spanky new Schwinn was a muted magenta and white with three gears and a set of cargo baskets. That night in that time I looked up into the night sky believing all was right with the world.
Three nights after this 'perfect' night I was in the surgical ward of the local hospital with a horrid concussion, broken left leg, severe lacerations and cut nerves in the right leg. Although I have been spared a recollection of the actual impact and fallout, I was hit by a Cadillac driven by an elderly woman going about 15 mph over the speed limit around a curve with limited sight lines.
Upon arrival at the hospital my poor head had been severely traumatized and I had very limited long-term memory.... I can recall recognizing a woman who worked with my mother in our town's bank, but no clue about who my mother was.... let's just say it gave my Mom no comfort at all.
I was in the hospital for over a week. Had to stay back @ home because my mobility was severely limited. The weeks went by, I got back to getting around, advanced to 2 different walking casts then finally it was off. Sitting in the surgeons office he zipped down the cast with a spiffy Dremel-like drill/saw, turned off the appliance and cracked the cast off.
The limb was withered, terribly nasty, orange-yellow and wildly hairy. "Go ahead, stand up!" said the good doctor with a smile in his voice. I shivered from stem to stern. But.....but..... how do you know it's OK to put weight on it.
"I wouldn't let you hurt yourself.... especially when you are standing in my office! Now go ahead - it will hold." He held his outstretched arms toward me, motioning me to go forward.
Putting nearly all of my weight on the 'good' leg, I stood up from the chair I had been sitting in.
"Oh, come on now.... after all you've been through, don't be such a chicken". Easy for him to say I thought loudly to myself. Leaning on his hand and arm I took a step and then another wobbly only because I was full of fear and doubt. Both legs still looked utterly wretched. One leg withered from temporary atrophy, the other covered in bruises, gashes and stitches.
"Now, don't be using the crutches. Use the cane if you need to for the next day or so, but then go cold turkey". Chickens, turkeys - a poor piece of poultry I was, scattered and skittery. I was sent to a couple of rehab sessions, but the rest was up to me. It took a long time to lose the fear of what if... of going past the fear to living into wholeness again.
All these years later, I still have the scars from that accident. I still have nerve damage, still have perpetually grey skin over the knees where the blood vessel damage remains. I still have the scars, but the scars are only skin deep. The reality is I can and do walk, my long term memory returned long ago, I have another bicycle which I plan to put to good use this summer.
Do you have scars? Did you go through a skirmish that left a mark on the inside or the outside? Have you recovered from the assault? Have you faced your fear of testing your current strength? Have you gone back to the scene of the incident?
I have heard people talk with a great deal of bitterness recounting a bad encounter they had with parishioners in a former congregation or a priest they felt slighted by. While they spoke, I imagined them pampering that injury, perpetuating the pain related to that scar. When questioned whether they had made any reconciliation with the 'offending party' they looked at me in quiet shock. "But they hurt me; I won't ever talk to them/go there as long as I live".
Scars. Some go very deep. We can invest them with pain they no longer possess - or look at them as badges of courage and go beyond our fears to wholeness again. It's all the way you look at it.