The Sum of All Parts

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Well, if you’re coming here for a pep rally and a cheery go get ’em for Monday morning, sorry to disappoint. I’m nothing if not unpredictable, at least in my writing. 

I guess I’m tapping this one out because of a few different things. First, it’s the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, a three day battle on July 1-3, 1863, that has been called the High-Water Mark of the Confederacy by many.

I’m a medical doctor by training. When I have visited that battlefield, or any other, I have often wondered what it must have been like to see young boys and men come rearward, minus an arm, a leg, or their sanity. What it must have felt like to see so many able-bodied men start across a field toward a copse of trees, only to come back on stretchers, their lives changed forever, their ability to shoot a gun or ride a horse or tend a field gone with the limb that was shattered by grape shot and canister from the murderous muzzle of a roaring cannon. 

I also saw a woman driving a car the other day, window open to the warm summer breeze, right hand on the wheel, left arm hanging out the window-no, wait. There was no left arm, only a stump. She had lost the arm, I know not how of course, but drive and feel the breeze she did anyway.

You know about the emotional amputees I see, of course, if you’ve been here or other places that I haunt and scribble. The depressed, the psychotic, the grieving. They have lost something that others cannot see, unless they share. They have lost a child, a devastating loss, surgically clean and final, that leads to phantom pain where the beloved was for the rest of their lives. They have lost the ability to see things as they are, instead living in worlds where flapping curtains become monstrous Death with hood and scythe, simple tasks like bathing and eating become two of Hercules’s Twelve Labors, and voices drive them to suicide.

Now, before you pity me, or these people I write about, stop. 

This is not a Monday morning post about war and madness and death.

This is a post about healing.

We all want one thing, at least. 

We want to be whole. 

We want to go home when the smell of cordite is gone from our nostrils and the fog of war has lifted from our brains. We want to experience the joy of a prosthesis, or at least learn about the redundancy of the human body and its ability to compensate for loss. We want to see things as they are. We want to experience a normal day. 

We want to live.

We want to be complete.

What part of you is missing on this Monday morning?

How will you begin the journey to make yourself whole again?