And so it came to be in the land of Carrboro that I was shorn on Easter Sunday. I wanted to take communion and celebrate the risen Lord with hair so I waited until after church was over. Truth be told I wanted to weather the entire 20 weeks of chemotherapy with hair. Planned it out that way and understood that if I claimed it, it could happen. I was talking to my cousin, the one who is more like my sister and she made it clear in her elder sister fashion that some folks don’t lose their hair. “Really?” was my amazed response, “I never knew that.” But being glad that I knew it now, I embraced it. Checking my hands for clumps in the morning after I showered and washed it one more time. Lovingly caressing it, knowing even with the embracing that this might be the last time for months and months that I could run a comb through.
“I don’t give a rip about losing my hair,” I said to the first person that gave me a hat. Hats come flowing in, some used, some new, some borrowed and blue. “I don’t. Hair can grow back. What I do care about is having cancer, being in pain and dying. Now that is something I care about. Oh and did I mention giving up tennis?”
But when I noticed the clumps lying in the drain after my shower and felt it falling in my mouth when I was singing He arose in church on Sunday morning, I cared. And tending toward action, I wanted to do something about it. We drove to Great Clips first but even on Easter morning at 11am there were five folks in line. So my daughter called her friends. She asked if we could borrow their shears and expertise for a hair cut and they said yes, come on by, we have some. And so in an experience as deeply moving as the worship service that morning celebrating the rebirth and resurrection of our Lord, I lost my hair to their blades.
My son drove my convertible with the top down, fast and furious like he does many things. My daughter, set the wooden chair outside on the concrete stoop and they got me a towel to drape over my Patagonia. Even still, after the cutting, we used duct tape to pull off all the little hairs that stuck. Max, the nurse, asked me if I wanted the red blade or the black one and how could I answer that question, still remembering what my cousin said about the folks that keep their hair, I had no expertise to offer. Eventually, we selected red and began. We started with a mohawk, just for fun. And then we continued until their was nothing left on my head that could fall in my mouth when I sing my praises to Jesus. Thank goodness for that.
They stood around and watched the shearing, the shaping, the public announcement that I would now make to the world and my patients that I have cancer. “is that a new hair cut, Dr. Burns?” Knowing from the look on the faces reflecting back and around me that they wanted to believe in my reincarnation as GI Jane but they weren’t really buying it. Not even for a second, not matter how hard they tried or wanted to.
Four young vibrant brilliant adventurous students sat watching with a spectacular display of courage and love, telling me how beautiful I looked, how easy this hair cut was to take care of and wow how much they loved it. Gazing at me tentatively initially, then later with great affection as they relaxed and saw that together we were creating a memory. The sun was shinning and shimmering in warmth and radiance, touching us with good love and assuring each a future. After graduation on Mother’s Day, one was circumnavigating the globe, traveling to countries not yet fully envisioned, one studying healing, questioned the need for a Higher Power and how does AA really work, one interested in business, advertising or marketing, still deciding and another saving oceans from phytoplankton imbalances which threaten our ecosystem. And I sat in that chair almost in disbelief at the bounty of blessings bestowed, holding my hopes for a future too, heart singing with love and belief in each one.
My hair, lots of it, flecked with more gray than I remember having when it was attached to my head, fell in locks at my feet. Almost black, not the beautiful bright brown that came with the summer’s lightening. I almost didn’t recognize it as mine. “The birds will be so happy with this offering.”What a nest they’ll make.” “Yes,” the world traveler, announced just as soon as I said it, “I was just thinking that. Yes, a fine nest for some babies.” I’d like to post a picture with this blog. Max, so handsome and healthy it takes your breath away when you look at him, standing there with his red bladed shears held high like a sword. My son taking them from him at the end and shaping the back of my neck and top just a bit. My daughter, offering to shave her head,”really Mom, I could, I’ve thought about it and I think it’s sexy,” and the now silent world traveler all encircling, witnessing this surrender. The love, the care, the don’t worry, we are never going to leave you look in their faces. It was almost too much for me. Bearing that testimony to this shaving was beyond beautiful. I just couldn’t say, “take out your iPhone and snap a selfie or let’s get a picture.” Those words would have melted the experience. You’re going to have to imagine that moment. Take my word for it, I know you can.
As we were finishing, an Indian man walked by with his little dog on a red leash and he couldn’t stop staring. Just could not turn his head from the spectacle that was taking place to his left on the concrete steps of that gray clapboard house. I looked straight back too. Acknowledging that the public part of the illness, the wow you don’t have any hair and oooh you look kind of sick and oh boy am I glad I don’t have cancer had started. I blessed him too. I’m hoping he’s blessing me, everyday. He had to know. There really was only one answer to the question his eyes held when he stared so hard, trying to figure out what we were doing. Like I said, I don’t give a rip about losing my hair. I’m banking on a much bigger miracle. And so are you, I know that.