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I feel terrible!

My mom died about 6 months ago. She didn’t let anyone know she had cancer until the very end. I should have visited her more often but I didn’t think she had such little time. It’s a four-hour drive and I feel so bad I never made more of an effort to be there.

I have a group of friends and we do volunteer work at the zoo every weekend. Maureen (Moe) and I have been doing this for several years. A couple of weeks back we were sitting down having coffee with the group and I expressed my continued feelings of guilt. I said I wished there was something I could do to make it up to my mom. Mary Jane suggested donating my hair to cancer victims. I was shocked! I’d heard of this but my hair was wonderful. My mother was the one who helped me care for it and trimmed it every few months. Together we’d cultured it until it was even with my hips. She took such pride in it. My first reaction was horror. Besides, Mary Jane was a hairstylist and from her own presentation I assumed not a very good one. She was only 23 and every few weeks it was a different colour.

That afternoon Moe and I were walking home. She mentioned Mary Jane’s suggestion and I cringed at the thought. Why would she suggest such a thing? Moe thought that it would be a fitting tribute since my hair was such a part of my relationship with my mom.

I went home and stood in front of the long mirror in my bedroom. I loved my hair! But Moe was right; such a sacrifice would be a fitting gesture and I could rest my conscience that I had done something meaningful for my mother. I brushed my hair and I began to cry. I wasn’t sure if I was crying for my mother or my hair.

When we were all together for lunch the next weekend Moe told Mary Jane I was considering her suggestion. That caught me off guard since I hadn’t discussed it any further and I was still really scared of doing anything so drastic. Everyone had something to say and all seemed supportive. It was like I’d already made the decision. Mary Jane said her boss had the addresses of several organizations that would accept a donation and suggested we go back to the shop after our shift. Moe agreed to come along for support. I was scared but had faith in everyone’s support.

My mind was a blur all afternoon. I don’t even remember the drive over to the shop. I just kept running my hands over my hair and wondering what this was going to be like. It was obvious Mary Jane was enjoying it. She got me in the first vacant chair up near the front and began brushing my hair. With the back off the chair it came almost a foot below the seat. She used a tie to draw everything into a ponytail about half way down, then pulled it tight. It was like the basket being placed before you to catch your head as the guillotine dropped. I was shaking as I begged her not to cut it too short. She told me the best quality hair was closest to my head. They needed that to give good support to the length. I didn’t want to cry, I just couldn’t help it. Mary Jane went back to get us coffee. Moe stood beside me and held my hand. “She’ll probably do something so it comes down over your ears. It will look cute!” She told me how her sister had cut her hair and it just took 2 years to grow it all back. I took a deep breath to try and relax.

Mary Jane put the coffees on the counter and began adjusting the clippers. I pleaded through my tears, “Please don’t make me look like a boy!” She smiled; “Don’t worry!” then rotated the chair to one side. Moe was blocking my view of the mirror as Mary Jane switched them on. I froze in terror. I felt her hand caress my hair then slide down to steady the back of my neck as she exclaimed, “Your hair is amazing!”

What I didn’t expect was for her to press the clippers to my forehead and sweep straight back into my hair. I screamed in shock, but the clippers had already done the damage. Moe gasped holding her hands over her mouth. “Oh my God!” But Mary Jane was already widening the path and I could feel the air of the salon against my scalp. Moe began to laugh as she stared at the ongoing destruction. “You’re getting shaved bald!” I was already in tears. I knew nothing would stop what was happening. Mary Jane giggled, “You’re going to be a real GI Jane!” She continued to use the clippers over my entire head until the long ponytail she held came free. The two of them were giggling and laughing. Moe just kept repeating, “Oh my God! Your hair!” She kept caressing it as Mary Jane laid it on the counter and measured its length. It looked so beautiful lying there. I could see the sun lightened strands that had hung around my face, the section where I had been growing out layers, and the way it curled slightly as it got to the bottom. The longest section measured 42 inches. Her boss came over, stared at me for a moment but said nothing as she carefully wrapped it.

That was the last I saw of my hair. Mary Jane used the clippers again to even up anything she missed the first time. I watched. My scalp was so pale. I couldn’t recognize my reflection. It was like I was watching someone else. She shaved everything to just a shadow. Moe stood there with a huge smile pasted on her face. “I can’t believe you did it. Your crazy! I was sure you’d chicken out! Your hair was beautiful. It’s going to take forever to grow again!” I reminded her how her sister’s hair grew back in just 2 years. She rolled her eyes. “Sure but hers was only to her shoulders.”

Moe walked home with me. I didn’t even have a scarf to cover my head. It felt so weird. She came in and we had another coffee. We tried to talk about normal stuff but it didn’t work. After a half hour she left. I took a shower to try and clear up the tears and get the prickly hairs away from my neck and off my back. I went into the bedroom and stared at myself in the full mirror. On the shelf was a picture of me with my mom. My long hair cascaded over my shoulders and enveloped both of us. It was beautiful! What had I done? If Mom knew, it would have killed her. She loved my hair! It was one of the good times we had shared. It’s gone! She never would have wanted me to do this. Why did I?  I lay on the bed and cried.

I feel so guilty!

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