“It Takes as Long as It Takes,” column for July 10, 2012

Long ago, my grandmother made me a promise.
“It will heal,” she said, dabbing my bloody knee. “Give it time. Healing is what we do best.”
“How much time?” I asked.
“As long as it takes,” she said. Then she added, “But you need to slow down and pay attention to where you’re going.”
I had taken a bad fall trying to outrun a rainstorm and left the skin from my knee on the steps.
In the days to come, I watched with all the wonder a 7-year-old can muster, as the raw oozing scrape formed a thick crusty scab that I could not resist picking apart. But every time I picked at it, it formed another scab and started over.
“Leave it be,” ordered my grandmother. “The more you pick at it and try to hurry it up, the more you’ll slow it down.”
She was right. I let it be. And gradually, the scab fell away, leaving an ugly purple scar that would darken if I got cold the way shadows deepen at dusk.
In time I made peace with it. I forgot it was even there. Until the day I realized it was gone.
I remember the exact moment of that realization. It was two weeks after a memorial service for my first husband, a man I’d shared my life with for almost 30 years. Family and friends who’d flown in for the service had all gone home. My three children, though still in touch every day, had gone back to their grown-up lives.
I had been alone before, but never as alone as I felt that night, sitting on my bed, looking at a list of a thousand names written in the guestbook from the memorial service. Suddenly I found myself asking: How long would it take? For the ache to stop? For the weight to lift? For life, as I knew it, to come back? How long would it take to heal?
I couldn’t fathom an answer. Something wet hit my knee and I reached down to brush away a tear. That’s when I noticed it: My knee wasn’t purple any more. I had almost forgotten that scar. When had it faded?
The memory brought back my grandmother’s words: It will heal. Give it time.
If time could heal my knee, could it also heal my heart?
Much to my surprise, it did. Slowly. In fits and starts. The ache stopped. The weight lifted. Life came back. It took as long as it took. But in time, the deepest wound I’d ever known healed, like the scar on my knee.
I thought of that this morning, staring at the mirror, studying my latest scars. Three weeks ago, I tripped over a bedspread (not just anybody can do that, you know) and all in one fall, split my lip, my chin, and broke a bone in my foot.
Talk about ugly. But oh my, what a difference a little time, three weeks, can make. My foot barely hurts any more, as long as I wear the “walking boot,” which I will, I swear, another three weeks or so.
The cuts on my lip and chin have closed. The bruising has faded from purple to pale blue. And the swelling, well, OK, so my lower lip is still slightly larger than Rhode Island.
But I’m starting to look almost human again. Three weeks ago, I wasn’t sure I ever would.
Today I tried a little lipstick. It made my mouth look like a fire hydrant, but I didn’t care. Any sign of healing is good medicine, a kind of healing in itself.
Those signs are everywhere, if we look for them. Because healing _ of ourselves and each other _ is our highest calling. It’s the thing we were meant to do, the thing that we do best.
What kind of wound are you suffering? On your body, your soul, your heart, your mind? What scar do you long to fade?
Don’t try to rush it. Don’t pick at it. Give it time. You will heal. If I can do it, you can, too.
But we both probably ought to slow down a bit and pay better attention to where we’re going.


  1. Sharon, your column on healing was in our Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this morning. Your writing is excellent. You are personal, honest and concrete. The images came to me in full color. Most of all you have written something beautiful to which everyone can relate, and a lesson as well. Yes, loving ourselves and each other, and therefore, healing ourselves and each other, is our highest calling. You would be an inspiring homilist at a Catholic Eucharistic liturgy. May God bless you as you heal others through your writing.

  2. Hid the crutches. Ah my. I needed that laugh tonight. Thank you and your cousin so very much, and, heal, y’all.

  3. Elizabeth says

    Thank you for your article of July 10. Lost my husband of 42 years in February. There is such an emptiness and longing. I know with God and time it will get better but it sure hurts and lots of people just don’t understand. It is so different when you lose a husband. I lost my dad in 1989 and mom in 2006, there is still grief at times for them, but the loss and hurt is so different with a husband. I’m thankful you show that you can get on with life. God bless.

    • Sharon Randall says

      Elizabeth, I am so sorry you lost your husband. My heart goes out to you. Please know that I wish you grace and peace.

  4. Dear Sharon,
    You column almost made me cry. I was just talking to my daughter yesterday about Mr. Randall. He is such a wonderful teacher, a beautiful soul. So I understand why you keep bringing him back to your column. It’s good medicine. Please do take good care of yourself.

  5. Carolyn Brewer says

    Thank you so much for this article today. A dear co-worker lost her husband in a head on collison yesterday. I thought of her when I read this article. I have had difficult circumstances during my 65 years and you are so right that in time, the pain heals your heart and soul. Remember Jackie and children in the days ahead. Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom and encouragement with your readers.

  6. Weldon Walker says

    I try to read your column every week and I always like it but today I simply loved it. I guess we all feel better to know that other people go through the same problems that you do. Thank you so much, Weldon.

  7. Thank you Sharon for such an amazing truth. I read it in today’s Times Record. We can all relate to the truths our grandparents instilled in us, but you have written in such a way that we can apply it to the hurts no one can see, hurts one can only feel. Thank you and may God bless you to overflowing.

  8. Leslye Curnutt says

    Thank you for today’s column. I feel like you wrote it just for me! I lost my mom almost 2 years ago and my dad on November 15th of 2011. I miss them both terribly and, not only did I lose parents, they were my best friends. Especially my daddy. Some days are better than others. I guess that’s when the scab is formed. Other days, such as today, as horrible. I guess that’s when it’s been scratched off and we have to start over. I have several people in my family who seem to think I’m taking too long to grieve, but I can’t help it! Your column today helped me understand why. Thank you so much!

  9. I swear you must be my long-lost twin, even though you are in Vegas and I am in little , tiny Cuba, New York. Of all places!

  10. Nancy T. says

    Your column comforted me at a time when very few things could. I lost my young daughter (28) recently and am battling a serious illness. Thank you for reminding me I’m not the only one who hurts and no matter what, life does go on. Thank you so very much.

  11. Janet Dietz says

    Thank you so much.. My Dad passed away June 2 2012. Felt this article is just for me. God Bless… Janet

  12. Davey Myers says

    So glad to hear you are healing once again. Amazing how time can help us do that both spiritually and physically. Slow down and take good care of yourself my Friend!

  13. "your niece" Wendi Lynne says

    I love u aunt sharon, But I would LOVE to see your lips looking like a fire hydrant even more. I know sara truley did appreciate your column this week. It really is amazing how our lord created the souls of our lives to love,hurt,heal and go on once again. I still hope you are taking advise and not trying to do to much. We will fly out and make you live to regret it! Love Wendi Lynne…..

  14. Sara Staton says

    Hi my sweet cousin,
    I’m flush with tears after reading your column. It helps to be reminded of our grandmother’s wisdom. I can almost hear her say “give it time.” Love you.
    I’m glad to hear you have a walking cast and not crutches. Someone might hide them.

    • Sharon Randall says

      Dear Baby Cousin Sara,
      Lovely to hear from you and to trust, as I do, that you are healing, slowly but surely, from the loss of your sweet husband. Our grandmother would most surely say to you, as she once did to me, “Give it time, honey. Give it time.” Know that you are loved and, despite the miles between us, you’ll be held close as always in my heart and prayers.
      As ever,
      Your big cousin
      P.S. I still cannot believe I hid your mother’s crutches. I am haunted by the memory of my dear aunt Hazel’s voice begging, “Please, oh puhleeeeese, bring me my crutches!” My only hope lies in the fact that I was just a child, never mind how old, and might, as such, be granted a pardon instead of the fate I clearly deserve _ to burn in hell.

  15. Debbie Graham says


    You really have a way with putting things in perspective. I will be sharing this with my Aunt who’s husband passed a year ago, she is slowly getting back into “life”. Thank you so much for my weekly dose of reality :~)

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