The day Scott and I discovered he was going to lose his hair due to aggressive chemotherapy, I knew that I would not shave my head for him. While he had beautiful hair, he was slowly going bald anyway.
Sitting next to him, hearing the news, I felt both powerless and relieved. I was relieved that they were going to treat the cancer. However, knowing there was nothing I could do to actually make this better for him was the worst feeling in the world.
“I’m not going to shave my head, Babes,” I said.
“I know. I wouldn’t want you to do that,” he reassured me.
I felt guilt from my vanity. I was sitting next to a man who was willing to put his body through Hell in order to keep living, and I wouldn’t shave my head? “I mean, I will shave it, if you really, really, really want me to,” I half-heartedly offered.
“Nah. I’m going bald anyway.” His hair thinned out recently, but he was far from bald.
“Starting today, I’m going to grow my hair out to donate. I hate long hair, and so I’ll make this sacrifice for you, in your honor.” I was excited that I could offer that.
“If that’s what you want to do, go for it.”
So I did. For more than two years, I let my hair grow longer. I refused to color it, and in that time I watched it go from a solid brown to a mix of dark brown and gray. I was determined to grow it for him, even after he was gone to remind me of my promise.
I’m always looking for ways to honor the life that my husband was not allowed to live.
Except, not everyone can donate hair, I learned. Yes, hair has to be natural. It also needs to be thick and healthy, and at least 8 inches. Finally, it needs to be less than 5% gray. I tried and tried. I found ways to style it, wear it, and tried to live with it.
Then, it started to break. And it stopped growing. Finally, it turned grayer and grayer. My hair was not fit to be donated and there was nothing I could do about it. I’m not one to give up. Most of the time, when I set my mind to something, nothing can change it. I’m not a quitter.
Two weeks ago, I knew it was time to admit this was not going to happen for me.
Finally, I sat in a chair and let the hairdresser cut it off. She was hesitant, since it was so long, but I couldn’t look at it in my mirror any more. It was time.
When she was done, my head felt lighter, and I was content with my choice, although I felt sad inside. Days later, I feel like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. As silly as it sounds, the longness of my hair didn’t feel right. It felt attached to my grief. It was a daily reminder of loss, as silly as that sounds.
As I let it go, little by little, I felt more like me again. I look more like the optimistic person who loved life. I look like her, the woman I still want to be, the one whom Scott loved more than himself.
The daily reminder of grief is gone. Yes, I failed, but I gave it my best effort. One thing I know for sure, the best way to honor Scott is to reclaim the person he loved, even if it means getting a haircut.