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Sharon Randall: Learning to treasure life's scars

Bad news, they say, comes in threes. Three weeks ago, after a month of traveling for speaking engagements, I came home to Las Vegas to unpack and try to get to know my husband again.
The next day, I remembered I had an appointment to see a dermatologist about a mole on my cheek, a mole I’d had for ages.
“Probably nothing,” he said, “but we’ll biopsy it to be sure.”
I hate the word “biopsy.” I’ve heard it too often from loved ones or readers who write to tell me their news because, good or bad, they need to tell somebody.
So he snipped a tiny spot and I went home, planning to unpack. But later that day, I learned that Elsie — my late husband’s 97-year-old stepmother, who was my mother-in-law for 30 years and “Grandma” to my children — had passed away. So I zipped up my still-packed roll-a-board and flew the next morning to Oakland, Calif., to rent a car and drive to Tracy for Elsie’s service.
But first I stopped in Walnut Creek, to see Marie, my mother-in-law for seven years, who was in the hospital in failing health.
“Good to see you!” she said, “Where have you been?”
I told her about my travels, places I’d been, people I’d met.
“You sound like my daughter-in-law! She travels a lot, too!”
“Well,” I said, “that’s because I am your daughter-in-law.”
“Oh!” she said, mortified, “you’ve cut your hair!”
We had a good laugh over that, she and I. She was sorry to hear about Elsie, she said, but she was glad I’d be home soon to “take care” of her boy.
Mothers. They worry. When she fell asleep, I kissed her head and slipped out. My oldest was driving up from L.A. to meet me in Tracy. I worried until he got there at midnight. We sat up talking until 2. The next morning I watched him help carry Elsie’s casket to the grave.
After the service, we had lunch with the family, then headed south to Monterey to spend the weekend with my other children and grandchildren, who couldn’t make it to the funeral.
Halfway there, I got a call from the dermatologist. The good news, he said, was I had nothing to worry about. However, he wanted to remove just a bit more to make sure the “margins were clear.”
“I’ll be home Monday,” I said. We set the surgery for Tuesday.
My husband had planned to fly to Oakland that Sunday to see his mom on Mother’s Day. “Come sooner,” I said. He arrived Saturday, in time to be with her when she died. We flew home together on Monday.
That Tuesday morning, another doctor removed a chunk of my cheek. After lab results reported “clear margins,” he closed it up Wednesday, assuring me it would heal. The next day, when my eye swelled shut and my face turned purple, I recalled a story my mother loved to tell. When I was a child, she said, I often scared myself to tears by making faces in the mirror.
The swelling went down, sort of, in time to go to California for my mother-in-law’s funeral. I wore a bandage the size of a hubcap. My husband delivered an achingly beautiful eulogy for his mother. She’d have loved it.
I kept thinking of something the priest said about her. She was faithful, he said, to her calling. She felt called to be a wife and a mother. And that is what she did with all her heart, every day, as long as she lived.
It was a fine thing to say and absolutely true of her. It’s also true of others I have known and loved and learned from and lost: Marie, Elsie, my mother, her sisters, my grandmothers, my friend Sally. … They weren’t “perfect,” but they fought hard to live true to their callings, whatever they felt them to be. And they all had a few scars to show for it.
I would hope the same could be said of me. Luckily, it seems, I still have time to work on it.
I’ll try to remember that when I look in the mirror. The scar on my face might look scary, but it doesn’t scare me.
It reminds me that I am alive.
• • •
Sharon Randall can be contacted at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson NV 89077, or at www.sharonrandall.com.

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