The Taser's Edge

On Being Wounded and “Getting Over It”

Lately I’ve been thinking deeply not just on suffering but on woundedness, the delineation being that suffering is a present experience and set of sensations while woundedness is about the changes that suffering causes in us, sometimes forever. At the encouragement of a friend, I finally got a copy of C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed.

For those who aren’t familiar, the book is the very raw journal of Lewis’ mourning the death of his wife. It actually seems so raw, literally written within months of her death, that it’s difficult for me to reconcile the buttoned-down conservative C.S. Lewis with the author of this book which lets so many questions just hang in the air.

Getting over it so soon? But the words are ambiguous. To say the patient is getting over it after an operation for appendicitis is one thing; after he’s had his leg off is quite another. After that operation either the wounded stump heals or the man dies. If it heals, the fierce, continuous pain will stop. Presently he’ll get back his strength and be able to stump about on his wooden leg. He has ‘got over it.’ But he will probably have recurrent pains in the stump all his life, and perhaps pretty bad ones; and he will always be a one-legged man. There will be hardly any moment when he forgets it. Bathing, dressing, sitting down and getting up again, even lying in bed, will all be different. His whole way of life will be changed. All sorts of pleasures and activities that he once took for granted will have to be simply written off. Duties too. At present I am trying to get about on crutches. Perhaps I shall presently be given a wooden leg. But I shall never be a biped again.

Keep in mind that those words were written by a man who was a patient in the combat hospitals of World War I, and you’ll receive them more deeply.

In the quote itself, it all sounds so final, but one theme of the book as a whole is that grief is the revelation that nothing is final, that nothing we know now is permanent, that everything is passing away. Not that you one day grow a leg back, but that one day you lose that now-one-legged body altogether, and then that state passes away too. Ecclesiastes, anyone?

One thing Lewis doesn’t stress which I want to, however: there is nothing wrong with having one leg, and there is no less value, belovedness, or blazing image of God in the amputee than in the person who, after all, only seemed to be whole in the first place.

I hope that you know that.

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