Our scars tell our stories

The lessons of a life amount not to wisdom but to scar tissue and callus

Wallace Stegner, The Spectator Bird

New York Times writer Dana Jennings wrote a wonderful reflection last year on the scars he now sports following his treatment for prostate cancer. He views them as a road map of his body’s travels.   “Our scars tell stories. Sometimes they’re stark tales of life-threatening catastrophes, but more often they’re just footnotes to the ordinary but bloody detours that befall us on the roadways of life.”

It led me to re-examine my own road-map of scars – working my way up from those  faintly visible scars from childhood falls, and on up the body to the raised appendix scar on my tummy, until  finally I finger the long raised scar from breast surgery. I look at that scar and marvel at the skill of the surgeon as he performed his life-saving work cutting away the cancer from my body. Yes, each scar tells its own story. I love how Jennings describes scars as “primal tattoos, marks of distinction that showed you had been tried and had survived the test.” I haven’t always loved my scars, and society certainly doesn’t encourage us to celebrate them, but I have learned to love them as the signs that show the world, that I have indeed been tested and survived the test.

Of course, it’s not just the scars on our bodies we carry, we also carry scars from old wounds in our hearts and perhaps those invisible scars, the ones we cannot see or touch are the hardest scars of all to heal.