Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Purple Smile

It was seven and a half years ago, and I haven't thought about it for a long time. But for some reason, the memory bubbled up, so I'm sharing it with you.

It was the week before Christmas- and I wasn't filling stockings or wrapping presents. I was stuck in a hospital room. For a week.

Long story short- I had my thyroid removed because it decided to go crazy and strangle me. I don't know the medical terms- but basically my thyroid suddenly grew really big and cut off my esophagus so I couldn't eat- for a month. I lived on Ensure- a nasty drink that is apparently good for you and that I've vowed never to touch again so long as I live.

Anyway- there I was, a nice big purple sewed up gash on my throat. I looked like someone tried to slit my throat and practically succeeded. The week before Christmas.

My doctor told me I could wear a nice little necklace and no one would notice. What he meant by that was that in a year or two, that little trick would work.

But right then, when I looked in the mirror, I had two smiles. My own lips and the big purple smile on my neck.

I told my sister-in-law that no one would see me any more- they would just see the big purple smile. She said people weren't that shallow.

The day I got out of the hospital I went to the grocery store with my family. Everyone looked at the big purple smile. Most people stared at it, then looked away. Like it was contageous- or scary.

But I'll never forget this one guy who looked at my big purple smile, but then lifted his gaze to my eyes and gave me a compassionate nod. He never said a word, but to me he said, "It's okay. You've been through a lot, but you're going to be okay." I don't know why it made such a difference that a stranger decided to look past the purple smile- but it did. And it taught me something.

Everyone's got some kind of purple smile. Maybe they have a necklace to hide it, and maybe it's so obvious that it's hard not to stare, but the purple smile isn't who they really are. There's so much more to see if we're willing to lift our gaze and look into their eyes and their heart.


L.T. Elliot said...

I love your smiles, be they purple or blue or red. Wonderful, wonderful post. *hugs*

Melissa said...

Lovely post, lovely reminder, you have a lovely smile.

I remember that time, it was so scary for you all.

Kerren said...

What a precious lesson for all of us to learn. We think we're so subtle with "look away" glances. How much more it means to convey some caring from within. Here's the other part . . . you were willing to allow the eye contact and be a receiver. Way to go! Life has a funny way of teaching us lessons. Thanks, Laura!
p.s. Book Table is not an air conditioned, new modern facility. It is an older building, but a treasure in Cache Valley. You won't need a sweater : ). Can't wait to see you.

Magenta said...

What a story! I wonder what got you thinking about that after several years...

Laura said...

Thanks for your sweet words- all of you.

Kerren--No AC at Book Table- duly noted. I am so excited to see you all!!!

Magenta- I think it must have been because I bought a new necklace- one that fits perfectly over the now invisible scar. I think the necklace made me remember my Dr.'s advice.

A. Grey said...

Great post. Scars tell where you've been, not where you're going. Just remember, plenty of corpses have gone into the ground without a mark on them, but nobody stands around talking about it. Instead, you get together with your friends and laugh, 'see that one on her knee? Well, we decided to skate down this really big hill one night, through that intersection on the corner of Whatever and High Street, the one where the traffic light has a short and doesn't always work. Anyway, we set off...' Your skin's a canvas. It'd be a pity to go through life without having it turn into a painting of some kind, you know?

Melissa said...

Adding more. Today, as Eve was thickly applying her sunscreen she noticed her scar. The one that saved her life the day she was born? Been there for nearly 7 years? Wraps from under her arm all the way to her spine? that one? Just barely noticed it. ;) And I told her again about the day she was born. Scars can be good reminders of so much, if we let them.

Laura said...

Thanks Melissa. Eve is such a pretty girl. Scars that saved lives- I'm totally there.

For the record- I'm okay with my scars. I tell people I have a road map on my leg, but most people can't see the one on my neck anymore.

Thanks for your thoughts.