05 March 2014

Bennett's "Scarf"

The other day, Bennett, who is 4, said, "I don't like my scarf."

"Scarf" is his word for the scar he was received when he underwent life-saving surgery at birth to repair a ruptured colon in utero and later when his ileostomy was removed.  Brian and I haven't bothered to tell him the word is "scar" not "scarf."

Bennett shows his "scarf" - his scar goes from the top of his abdomen all the way down to right about his belly button.
"It's not fair that I have a scarf," he said.

I paused for a second to capture the moment in my heart.

I had been anticipating this very moment since I first laid eyes on my 4-month old baby boy's scar when he returned to me from surgery.  It was fresh then.  But I knew, as soon as I saw it, it was permanent - a permanent reminder of where he had come from and a permanent reminder of the battle he is in.



I stopped washing Avonlea's bottles at the sink, bent down and said, "Bennett, you are right, it isn't fair you have a scar. But did you know that's a very very special scar??"

Bennett's little blue eyes grew wide, as though I was telling him the world's greatest secret.

"Your scar is a BRAVE scar.  It reminds you that you are very very brave, because of how strong you were when you were a baby and how strong you are right now when you fight against Cystic Fibrosis."

Bennett seemed delighted to hear what I had to say about his scar.

But someone else was not...

Oliver, now sulking behind the kitchen counter stools nearby, said in a pitiful voice, "That's not fair he has a brave scar. I want one!"

I hadn't been ready to have made my explanation of Bennett's scar so wonderful that his big brother would become jealous and want one of his own!  But, apparently, my reply had been good enough that Oliver was now upset the he didn't have a 2-inch skin discoloration due to abdominal surgery.

Immediately, I thought about how Oliver bares a scar too.  His is emotional.  As a brother to someone with a life-threatening illness, he suffers quietly with his own emotional scars of a battle we are all in.

I said to Oliver, "Oliver, you have a brave scar, too. But yours is secret.  No can see yours."

Oliver's face lit up, "ahh! I like that!  So, mine is an invisible one that no one knows about?!"

I smiled and said, "yes, that's right.  yours is one that you choose to reveal when you are ready."

Both boys were satisfied with my answers and quickly returned back to their lands of fantasy Lego rocket ships and Imaginext superhero figures.  But I know this conversation will be one that we will all come back to many more times.

As little boys, they want to know they are brave and strong.  Brian and I feel very privileged to be able to remind them of their identities when they wonder who they are, who they are supposed to be and why they have been given the strengths and challenges in life they have been given.

But, I know...
One day, Bennett's scar as a badge of honor won't be enough for him.

He will ask deeper questions as to why he wears a scar on his chest, deeper than "why did I have to have surgery." Instead he'll ask, "why am I sick."

It is at that point that I will have to explain that scars are not just a sign of bravery, they are also a very concrete reminder that our bodies, and the world we live in, is broken.  This isn't the way it's suppose to be.  

I have my own scars, most are like Oliver's, they are invisible.  But nonetheless, whether physical or emotional, scars are a sign of our mortality.

Scars, much like the ashes placed across our foreheads today during our church's Ash Wednesday Service, remind us that "you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19)."

Bennett's right.  His soft little white baby skin should not be covered by marks of a surgical knife once there.  His scar tells a story of loss, of bravery and of decay.

But, as we look forward to Easter, I am thankful that I will be able to tell him a story of loss, bravery and decay that ends with hope, triumph and the resurrection.

Bennett, no matter what, your "scarf" is not the end of the story.  It is only the beginning.


  1. I love how wonderful you are with your words. You explain things beautifully to your boys and without a doubt, make this lifestyle much easier to "bear" for them. I can't think of a better mommy to those three precious children!!!

  2. Wonderful explanations! You're so sweet. And your children are adorable!

  3. I have read your blog for some time and have often felt compeled to comment but never really seemed to know what to say and today is really no different. I know I don't have the right words but the post touched me deep in my heart. I have a very soft spot in my heart for the siblings of those that have these terrible illnesses. Unfortunately I know to well the feelings and emotions that come with being the mom of a sick child with a well sibling. When Stanton got sick our world stopped but Hayden's world had to go on. I have learned so much from him the last 10 years about what his feelings were while were experienceing the biggest fight of our lives. Things I never thought about as we were going through them Hayden has opened up and shared them with me a little at a time. I am blessed that he is amazing and handles "life" better than I could ever imagine but it was/is tough. So every time I read about Oliver my "mommy heart" just swells for him. I know like Hayden, he loves Bennett and would do anything to make things right in his world. And from what I read you are amazing at making sure all of your children know how special they are to your and to God. Okay, so that was lenghty without much content. Just wanted you to know that I admire you and what you do for your children. Tina


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