On Wednesday, I was leaving one of the schools where I work. I was crossing the parking lot to my car and I tripped. There was no ice, no barriers in the road. I just tripped over my own two feet and went flying. My knees broke my fall.
In the instant I hit the pavement, the pain was intense. I will admit that quite a few four letter words were uttered under my breath. I inhaled deeply, gathered my bag (some of its contents spilling out onto the road), and hobbled the 20 more yards to my car.
I pulled up my pant legs to assess the damage. Both knees were skinned. I had errands to run so I started the car, thinking I’d stop at a drugstore for band aids if needed. Interestingly, the incident took the first 10 layers of skin off my knees but the bleeding was slight. By the time I reached my next destination, I could slide my trouser legs over my knees without fear of destroying the material with blood stains.
I avoided the emergency room. The event didn’t even warrant a trip to the Minute Clinic. Probably the biggest damage was done to my pride. I moved on, slowly, but that sting in my knees has been a constant reminder this week.
Over the last few years, I have found many metaphors for that process by which we deal with tragedy, suffering, and loss. I guess I’ve found another one to add to the collection.
Like grief, the initial impact of those skinned knees were a shock to the system. The pain was intense. A flood of different emotions (pain, embarrassment, anger, pity) engulfed my system all at the same time. I took some immediate action to staunch the bleeding (thank goodness for those extra napkins in my glove compartment) and trudged forward. For the next few days, every time I moved, I felt the sting of the raw skin. Even though I could feel it, the pain was invisible to everyone else. I cloaked the evidence in pants and tights. Unless I called their attention to my injury, nobody really knew it was there.
After a few days, the pain has subsided. The skin is scabbing over and the healing process has begun. I still have to be careful, though. I won’t be shaving the hair on my knees for a little while. (Thank goodness it’s not bathing suit season!) If I bump my knees against a chair, a wall, or the bed, the pain rears its head again. I’m reminded that I’m still healing.
Even well-meaning friends and family can trigger the pain. The other night, we were sitting on the couch and my husband absentmindedly placed his hand on my knee. What was intended as an act of comfort or endearment caused me to flinch and back away. He immediately apologized, saying that he had forgotten about my “war injury”. It’s true. Sometimes even those close to us forget how painful grief can be. Without visible wounds, the pain only rears its head when triggered. And those triggers can come out of left field. We are left defenseless, even for a short time.
Time heals all wounds, whether skinned knees or mended hearts. What remains is a scar: an eternal reminder that while we were broken, we can find peace. The memories, good and bad, remain in that place, protected by a new layer of skin. Often, that scarred skin is darker, tougher. It’s not impermeable but it arms us as we face the days ahead.
Special thanks to guest author Rachel Reynolds for sharing her story with us. Rachel founded CJ’s Thumbs Up to honor the memory of her daughter, Charlotte. You can read more of Rachel’s work on her blog www.rachel-writes.com