Long ago, my grandmother made me a promise.
"It will heal," she said, dabbing my bloody knee. "Give it time. Healing is what we do best."
"How much time?" I asked.
"As long as it takes," she said. Then she added, "But you need to slow down and pay attention to where you're going."
I had taken a bad fall trying to outrun a rainstorm and left the skin from my knee on the steps.
In the days to come, I watched with all the wonder a 7-year-old can muster, as the raw oozing scrape formed a thick crusty scab that I could not resist picking apart. But every time I picked at it, it formed another scab and started over.
"Leave it be," ordered my grandmother. "The more you pick at it and try to hurry it up, the more you'll slow it down."
She was right. I let it be. And gradually, the scab fell away, leaving an ugly purple scar that would darken if I got cold the way shadows deepen at dusk.
In time I made peace with it. I forgot it was even there. Until the day I realized it was gone.
I remember the exact moment of that realization. It was two weeks after a memorial service for my first husband, a man I'd shared my life with for almost 30 years. Family and friends who'd flown in for the service had all gone home. My three children, though still in touch every day, had gone back to their grown-up lives.
I had been alone before, but never as alone as I felt that night, sitting on my bed, looking at a list of a thousand names written in the guestbook from the memorial service. Suddenly I found myself asking: How long would it take? For the ache to stop? For the weight to lift? For life, as I knew it, to come back? How long would it take to heal?
I couldn't fathom an answer. Something wet hit my knee and I reached down to brush away a tear. That's when I noticed it: My knee wasn't purple anymore. I had almost forgotten that scar. When had it faded?
The memory brought back my grandmother's words: It will heal. Give it time.
If time could heal my knee, could it also heal my heart?
Much to my surprise, it did. Slowly. In fits and starts. The ache stopped. The weight lifted. Life came back. It took as long as it took. But in time, the deepest wound I'd ever known healed, like the scar on my knee.
I thought of that this morning, staring at the mirror, studying my latest scars. Three weeks ago, I tripped over a bedspread (not just anybody can do that, you know) and, all in one fall, split my lip and chin and broke a bone in my foot.
Talk about ugly. But oh my, what a difference a little time, three weeks, can make. My foot barely hurts anymore, as long as I wear the "walking boot," which I will, I swear, another three weeks or so.
The cuts on my lip and chin have closed. The bruising has faded from purple to pale blue. And the swelling, well, OK, so my lower lip is still slightly larger than Rhode Island.
But I'm starting to look almost human again. Three weeks ago, I wasn't sure I ever would.
Today I tried a little lipstick. It made my mouth look like a fire hydrant, but I didn't care. Any sign of healing is good medicine, a kind of healing in itself.
Those signs are everywhere, if we look for them. Because healing -- of ourselves and each other -- is our highest calling. It's the thing we were meant to do, the thing that we do best.
What kind of wound are you suffering? On your body, your soul, your heart, your mind? What scar do you long to fade?
Don't try to rush it. Don't pick at it. Give it time. You will heal. If I can do it, you can, too.
But we both probably ought to slow down a bit and pay better attention to where we're going.
(Sharon Randall can be contacted at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson NV 89077, or at www.sharonrandall.com.)