I separated my shoulder last fall, part of my brief sojourn in and introduction to the foreign and awe-inspiring land that is pain.  The injury hurt a lot in the immediate aftermath, and it has mostly but not entirely healed.  I’m told that’s part of the deal with separated shoulders: the joint is never quite the same again.  On random days, doing motions I do every day I will experience a startling jolt of pain.  I can never predict when or why it will come.  Also, I have a small but noticeable bump where my collarbone meets my shoulder.  Fortunately my collarbone and shoulder are sort of bumpy in general, so it’s not quite as stark as it might be, but it is still noticeable if you look.  I have a bump and I always will.

After 6 weeks of recovery, I went back to my orthopedist.  I asked him, tentatively, whether the bump would ever go away.  He is a tall, gentle man about my age, and he looked directly at me in the small room.  I’ll never forget what he said next.

“No, it won’t.”  I swallowed.  “But you know what?  If you’re living, you’re going to get bumps.  I have a bump on my shoulder.  You’re 37.  Don’t we all have bumps?  Everybody’s got a bump.”

I laughed it off in the moment, but in retrospect I think there was deep wisdom in this comment.  Of course this moment has been on my mind lately as Grace’s collarbone heals.  She has a small but visible bump that we are told will flatten out as she grows.  It’s on her left side, too, and I find this parallel both totally coincidental and breathtakingly not.

These bumps are just like our scars, outward manifestations of places we’ve been broken and healed.  Whit’s long scar on his leg, the trace of a skidding epi-pen, has already faded from angry red to raised white.  Grace’s broken bone, originally an enormous protrusion from her collarbone, has begun to flatten out and presumably the bones have begun to knit together.  At 7 and 9 my children have already been marked by life.  I myself am a map of scars, internal and external: several different bones healed, spots where suspicious moles were removed, the scar where I was hit on the face by a wine press when we lived in France.

We are all marked by our passage through life.  Some of these marks are visible and some are not.  I think it is valuable to remember the moments and experiences that made marks on us, for better or for worse.  They are part of what shaped us into who we are now, after all.  This reminds me of a passage from Donald Miller’s lovely book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

Last year, I read a book about a man named Wilson Bentley, who coined the phrase “No two snowflakes are alike.”  He is the one who discovered the actual reality that no two snowflakes are geometrically the same.  Bentley was a New England farmer who fell in love with the beauty and individuality of snowflakes…. What amazed Bentley was the realization that each snowflake bore the scars of its journey.  He discovered that each crystal is affected by the temperature of the sky, the altitude of the cloud from which it fell, the trajectory the wind took as it fell to earth, and a thousand other factors.

Big thanks to Erin, who told me she likes her own private collarbone bump for the reminder it is of her brave, tough child self.  I hope Grace feels the same way someday.

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  1. Posted June 12, 2012 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    I have a large & quite noticeable bump in the same spot. Mine is a remnant of my car accident – it’s the piece of collarbone that never healed in place. It used to bother me, but now it serves as a reminder. See, the doctors never set my collarbone b/c it was the most minor of all of my injuries. So, this bump is a constant reminder that some things, some pain should be the least of my worries.

  2. Robert
    Posted June 12, 2012 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    This is an excellent insight into the reality that we all carry scars, whether
    those scars are physical and visible, or whether
    they emotional and internal they are definitely evident a life
    of risks. Having broken my collar bones 4 times
    (3 on the left, 1 on the right) I can assure you Graces
    bump will hardly be noticeable in time, if at all.
    A very good piece of writing Lindsey.


  3. Posted June 12, 2012 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    We were just talking about my brother’s huge fall from a very tall tree when he was in elementary school. He broke his arm solidly in two places. One of the breaks left a very large, visible bump on his upper arm.

    It’s still there.

    And each time I see it, I’m flooded with stories. I think, after reading your post, that the stories live on in those healed fractures, our bumps.

  4. Posted June 12, 2012 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    This is so beautiful and true. Yes, we all have bumps.

  5. Posted June 12, 2012 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    As someone who once broke her collarbone, I have the same bump Grace does (you can tell her that, in a few years, it’ll hardly be noticeable). I also have a scar from an emergency tracheotomy, an angry red line that has faded to a pale white one, but still a reminder that I faced death once and lived to tell about it. I have that same feeling when I look at Abra and see the bumps life has already leaving on her: small “sun spots,” skinned knees, chipped teeth…

  6. Posted June 12, 2012 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    It’s also such an awesome reminder of how our bodies work, heal, live, breathe–the realness and imperfection and humanness of them.

  7. Posted June 12, 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    My girls trace the different bumps on my body, fascinated by moments they weren’t here to witness. I chronicle with them the appearance of freckles, the arrival of summer shins in all their violet-into-yellow glory.

    Privileges, every one.

  8. Jennie
    Posted June 12, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    You said this beautifully. It brought to mind a quote from Little Bee (a great read!), in which an African refugee says the following: “On the girl’s brown legs there were many small white scars. I was thinking, Do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and the moons on your dress? I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.”

  9. Posted June 12, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    I completely agree. My daughter has a big scar on her knee — the result of a fall. She often say that people tease her about it. I doubt this is true, taking into account the drama of an 11 year old, but I always tell her. If you didn’t have any scars, I’d be concerned. That means you got out and played hard. Accumulating scars in life is a sign that we have truly lived.

  10. Posted June 14, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I have many bumps and scars, too. I think of them as a road map… when I was going through a period of healing from trauma and memory retrieval, it was amazing to find the stories associated with some of them. And I’m grateful for them all…

    Clearly I’m not alone on that front – thanks for this, Lindsey.


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  1. By Bone Scan Blog on June 24, 2012 at 11:47 pm

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