She had finished chemo and the hair was growing back in like beautiful, blonde, peach fuzz. She had gone through all the stages, even had a matching baldy photo with the pastor to prove it. I was insistent that my hair refused to grow past my shoulders, so she actually (I mean ACTUALLY) pulled the cancer card on me. Even used those words,
‘Hannah, I’m pulling the cancer card, you have to grow your hair for me.’
‘Um, I’d rather shave it, can’t we be baldy twins together?’
‘No, lets make a pact, I want my hair long and I want to see you with long hair too.’
‘Nope, not going to happen, it won’t grow.’
‘Hannah, I went through chemo.’
‘But what if I die… I want to die with the image of your lovely, long locks in my mind. It would mean the world to me.’
‘Whatever, you aren’t going to die. Nice try, never.’
‘I’ll buy you chocolate.’
So we settled on three years as being the cut off date, we’d both grow our fine locks for three years and then at that point we could do whatever we wanted.
Two moves (for me).
Another bout of cancer.
She cracked before I did, I knew she would too after I saw all the cute pixie cut ideas she was pinning. I would drool over the flippant curls and tiny ponytails, yet, impressed that my hair finally did grow past my shoulders (and kept growing) I continued to put off the cut.
It’s winter, I’ll cut it when it gets too warm.
It’s summer, it wouldn’t make sense for me to cut it because then I won’t be able to pull it up of my neck…
The excuses kept coming even though I was dying to chop it all off.
My hair not only grew, it got long and thick. The compliments flowed and she wagged her finger while saying ‘I told you so’ in the most Vroom way possible.
Grief has a funny way of making you deal.
Deal with forgetting.
Deal with regret.
Deal with love.
‘Who do you love?’ the apple blossoms ask
while the petals fall to their death.
A dance of pain,
A dance of faith.
I hadn’t planned to cut my hair any time soon, partially because it took me so long to grow it, mostly because there were too many choices and I would panic every time I had to pick one.
And then she died.
‘Why do you love?’ the wind cries out
as she whips and purges the orchards.
You pull the jacket around you tighter
and push through the fog.
I felt guilty, guilty that I hadn’t stayed communicating with her. Guilty that I hadn’t written her that birthday post I had started, guilty because I felt like I had fallen down on the job of loving her.
So then I held onto my hair for a completely different reason.
‘How do you love?’ the raindrops call slow,
Pounding the damp into your bones,
pushing any remnant of warmth away.
I cried a lot those first few weeks after the funeral, mostly driving to and from work, at work, when I woke up and before sleep. I’ll cry now if I am telling anyone her story or if I am witnessing someone else grieve but not like before. Sometimes I won’t even think about her at all for weeks, but then it’ll hit me all over again in a deep, aching wave.
Started by a picture or a post,
or when I am brushing my waist length hair.
‘Oh, what is love?’ Fall laughs mercilessly,
‘For Winter comes and you don’t know. Not knowing will kill you.
So last night I stood in front of the mirror and I cut it all off. When I did so I felt a weight lift, both emotionally and physically.
It was if I was letting go of something past, not her (never her) but the guilt I felt and the pain of not being ‘enough’ for her.
She is gone and her family will never stop grieving, but they don’t need to. Her friends will never stop grieving, but in a different way. For us there will be no empty spot at the dinner table or at family reunions.
We grieve for those who will feel that emptiness
and we cry for ourselves.
But we’ve let go of the guilt.
And I’ve let go of my hair.
‘I do know love,’ your heartbeats scream without your consent,
‘for I was born into love and in death I shall return to it.
You ask and cry. You call and laugh, but I know love.
He is love and I had Faith.’