By Drucilla Coghill
I have a colorful scar from a serious illness. When I first got sick, I delayed going to the doctor for treatment because, at the time, I didn’t recognize the meaning of the symptoms I experienced in my body. However, my doctor now says there is a 50% chance of having this problem again, so I’ve been on high alert for symptoms ever since. Going to the doctor as soon as I notice something will (hopefully) keep it from becoming so acute.
Periodically I notice a slight ache or pain. When this happens, I immediately pay attention to every symptom and try to assess if the illness is coming back. But I’ve noticed that the scar area will hurt for a little while and then go away. Now that I’ve realized moderate discomfort doesn’t signal impending doom, it’s become a source of amusement. (I guess that’s been my way of keeping myself from being overly anxious).
I’ve chosen to look at it as though it were Frodo’s stab wound from Weathertop in The Lord of the Rings. Because the injury profoundly affected Frodo, it occasionally bothers him on anniversaries and other significant days. In this spirit, I’ve chosen to view this sporadic pain as a reminder of what I’ve been through and an invitation to prayer and gratitude.
As I pondered this phenomenon, I realized it might be helpful for me to view other parts of my life in a similar fashion. After returning from the convent, I was extremely distraught and in a great deal of misery. Fortunately, as time has gone on, this has slackened. But on occasion, I am still confronted with a dull pang of sadness or some other emotion.
This used to make me fearful because I wondered if I was about to spiral back into the crying, mourning, and active grief. But now I recognize that it’s simply a reminder of a very significant event in my life.
I need these reminders because I have a tendency to want to rush forward to the next thing, especially if the previous time was difficult. For example, I say: “Being sick was awful, but I feel better now, so I’d prefer to forget about it.” Or, “My time in religious life radically changed the course of my life, but can I please just move on?”
But then that twinge of sorrow, longing, or ache hits me. Sometimes it’s more subtle than others. But I need to give heed to these feelings. If you ignore a small child tugging on your clothing and wanting to be noticed, he or she will either start screaming or tragically give up.
I don’t want my important life experiences to suffer from either extreme. Instead, I need to let that gentle nudge be enough to help me remember what I’ve been through and show reverence, love, and respect to my experience. I now see that it’s an invitation to pray for deeper healing and grieve this time more fully.
Let us all pray for each other during these times, especially when memories unexpectedly pop up. When you are confronted with old pain, how do you respond? I would love to hear about it.
I love the analogy of Frodo’s wound…now being out of the convent for longer than I was in (and that took awhile, since I had made temporary vows), I sometimes wonder, “will I ever stop having moments where I wish I could go back, or things could be different?” And these moments can come seemingly out of the blue. You have provided a beautiful way to receive them for what they are without having any concern about whether your life really should be different than what it is (answer: it should not, we are always right where God wants us to be if we keep our eyes on Him).