In the last 18 months of Michael’s life he suffered three different accidents which led to injuries to his legs. Incredibly two of these incidents occurred on the exact same day, 1 year apart. This reminds me that he actually spent his last three birthdays in the hospital.
With each injury it seems like we went through many of the same stages. Initially there was lots of blood and panic. We rushed to the emergency room, sometimes by ambulance, and were met with all the medical personnel. There’s was lots of paperwork to be done on my part. Michael was in severe pain each time as the doctors rushed around trying to determine how best to treat him considering all his other medical issues. But the first issue was always how to stop the bleeding and manage the pain.
Once the emergency was under control, there was the course of treatment so his leg could heal. Surgeons were often called in to consult. Antibiotics were always started, along with pain meds. And the routine of bandaging and dressing the injury was determined. Sometimes he required stitches. Often there was not enough tissue to stitch back together, so we’d embark on a long road of waiting for new skin to grow.
I remember so well how painful these events were for Michael. He seemed to have a high tolerance for pain and was certainly very strong, but the first time he would have to return to an everyday activity was especially hard. The first time he would get up and walk he would grit his teeth and groan. The first time he would get in the shower I can remember he would cry out from the pain of the water running over the raw tissue. And the daily bandage changes would be especially painful in the beginning.
Eventually – gradually – he would be able to do the things without so much pain. He never looked forward to some parts, like bandages and debridement, but he got through them and went on to what he needed to do that day. And slowly the skin would grow back and cover the injury. But even after the skin had completely grown back, he always had a scar there. For the rest of his life he had a scar. And the funny thing about that scar tissue — there were some places on that scar that continued to be incredibly sensitive to any little thing that touched it. And there were some places on that scar that never regained their feeling at all.
As I remember all that Michael went through with these injuries, I’m beginning to feel like I’m following the same path to healing. When he first died it was an emergency. There were medical personnel and lots of paperwork for me to do. There was a sense of panic sometimes as to how I would face tomorrow. And there was lots of pain and crying out. Especially the first time I’d try to do those everyday things. Things like going to the farm or the beach. Like opening a closet door or driving his Hummer. Like going back to the church service we always used to go to. Gradually I’m able to face these things without the pain being quite so severe, and then go on to do what needs to be done. I continue the course of treatment. My antibiotics are prayer to keep me from being infected with bitterness and anger. And my bandages are the many people around me that protect me and soften the bumps in life.
But I think that even when the pain gets to be manageable, I’m going to have a scar. For the rest of my life I’m going to have a scar. And I think there will be some places on that scar that will always be particularly sensitive to anything that bumps into it. Sensitive enough to bring tears and feelings of longing. And I think there may be places on that scar that I will never be able to feel again. Because even though the skin grows back and the scar is evidence that you can heal, it never looks the same.