“You’ll probably still have a scar, but this works better than stitches.”
As the ER nurse expertly wiped the crusted blood off my mother’s forehead and patched the open wound with surgeons’ glue, she teased, “But, come on, you gotta come up with a better story about what happened last night. Your face looks like you were in an epic fight, so play it up!”
Only in town for the weekend, Mom drove up to be an extra set of ears and take notes at an appointment scheduled earlier that day for my daughter, Cora. The weeks leading up to this particular appointment had been tense ones in between all the blood tests, a tenacious hunt for a reputable doctor, and too many internet searches to try to find more information about my daughter’s new condition (consulting “Dr. Google” is never a great idea). I was grateful for my mother’s calming presence.
Hours after the appointment, when we were all tucked away in bed and entering our first REM cycles of the night, Cora woke up panicked. She made a beeline to our bedroom and tugged on my arm before dashing to our toilet to vomit.
Because I had an early workshop I was to co-lead the following day, Mom stepped up and volunteered to be on puke duty the rest of the night. (My saint-of-a-mother also possesses the uncanny ability to remain stoic and unaffected by the sight of others regurgitating their insides. Unfortunately, she didn’t pass this gene on to me). I had just fallen back asleep when my oldest daughter ran into our room half an hour later and announced, “Mom, come quick! Cora threw up again, and Gigi’s bleeding!”
I’m unsure what I expected as I leaped out of bed and ran down the hall to my daughters’ room, but it certainly wasn’t what I stumbled into. There stood Cora, perched upright and covered in her mess, as was my mother, who had a gash in the middle of her forehead and lip. As she held her fingers to her head, blood oozed between them. She rocked unsteadily, imbalanced without an equilibrium.
While my husband mopped up the mess and tucked the girls back into bed, I helped Mom ease into a clean change of clothes before whisking her off to the emergency room. Blood is one thing, but a blow to your head is another—we didn’t want to take any chances.
A clean CT scan and surgeons’ glue sent us home five hours later. As I thought more about the “epic fight” my mom was in, I knew her story held more than a fortunate escape from a serious injury. And much more than a disastrous episode of slipping in her granddaughter’s vomit and taking a faceplant smack dab into it.
I suspected the behind-the-scenes version of her story looked like this:
The second she heard Cora cry out that night, Mom bolted out of bed and rushed to her. Knowing my mom, I’d bet heaps of money that this run was no lackadaisical attempt to get Cora to the toilet in time. No, the sprint that caused her to faceplant was fueled by her grittiest, fullest force. Once she heard fear in her granddaughter’s voice, that force ignited her to become an agent of alleviation at that moment.
After weeks of praying with me over the phone and holding a safe space to process my fears, that same abating force prompted her to be at my side as we reviewed Cora’s treatment plan with her doctor earlier that day. I’ve been a recipient of my mother’s driving forces of love and devotion all my life. The same is true for my daughters, too.
The following day, as I stared at her blackened eyes and puffed-up lips, and honed in on the swollen wound etched in the middle of her forehead, I lamented, “Oh geez, Mom, I hope that doesn’t leave a huge, blaring scar.”
She smiled and replied, “It’s okay if it does. Because it’s a mark of love.”
A mark of love.
And as moms, we wear countless numbers of them. They’re the dark, under-eye circles no concealer can hide from our sleepless nights. They’re the extra pounds we carry around our middles, the horizontal scars on our bellies, the smile lines, and the soft wrinkles chiseled upon our faces. We witness our children’s pain, triumphs, and failures, and our “marks of love” become co-mingled in our tears, prayers, burdens, and pride. Our “marks of love” are the driving forces behind the sometimes visible—but often invisible—emotional, physical, and spiritual sacrifices and guidance we daily provide our offspring.
Our scars may be manifold in number, but they’re also the remnants, stamps, stories, and markings of our adoration and loyalty. They are intertwined in everything we do and everything we are as mothers.
Love is said to be the most powerful, limitless force in the universe. If this is true—and I believe it is because God is love—then our “marks of love” leave lasting imprints on all the lives around us, including our own.