I haven’t combed my hair for nineteen days. That’s before my friend died.
There has to be more to this life.
I knew Liz from somewhere; I just couldn’t place her. Our paths must have crossed at some point during my college years in DeKalb. There must have been something more before that, too, because I have known her from a place within for quite a long time. I came to know her, officially, when I visited babies at Kindercare. She would let me sit in her office as she did a million tasks right before my eyes. When one of the teachers called her, she was quick to take her place among the children, calming a fussy baby or intervening in a toddler squabble. I watched Liz. She was masterful, and I admired her.
As I walked through the snow to deliver macaroni and cheese dinner to the family yesterday, I was reminded of the day, perhaps eleven or so years ago, when I had been called to visit their little boy for an evaluation. Liz was on her way out the door for gymnastics class with her sparkly-eyed, then six-year-old daughter. Those sparkly eyes flowed with a river of tears as this little girl, now seventeen, dissolved in sadness when we laid her mother to rest last week.
The last time I saw Liz, and in the last conversation I had with her, I told her that I was going to let my hair dread. She was aghast. She wondered why I would ever want to do that. I really had no answer, except that I just thought I would.
After a bit of research and consultations with a couple of people that have dreads, I decided to let nature take its course, to let them form naturally. And every day when I wake up, I wonder if I am doing the right thing. Not just with the hair, but with everything.
“Solid stone is just sand and water, baby; sand and water, and a million years gone by.”
–Beth Nielson Chapman, “Sand and Water”
I could sense the angels around me with each breath at Liz’s funeral. A swirl of incense danced around the head of the baby in my arms. The soulful hymns and an overwhelming sense of grief shook my body, and I was never more grateful to have my husband at my side. I thought of how Liz had held and calmed so many babies, and I watched her husband hold their little son, a boy who had no idea how different his world was going to be from this day forward. My friend lived her life, in the depths of great challenges, as though each moment, and each person in that moment, was the most important of all. We have learned so much from her.
She was gone. Just days before, I had stopped combing my hair. I can’t help but wonder if she peers at me with disdain as she holds heaven’s babies, protecting them with her untangled, downy angel wings. Actually, I am quite sure she doesn’t. I don’t think she would even care. Certainly, she wouldn’t. She was like that; she loved fully, and she was able to help others find the good in themselves. She also stood up for what she believed, and she was not afraid to speak for herself or for others. She was a true hero, and she leaves a stunned legacy wondering where to find meaning in what has happened.
“All alone, I tried to find some meaning, in the center of the pain I felt inside.”
–Beth Nielsen Chapman, “Sand and Water”
This ratty hair is starting to drive me crazy. Everything, I know, is a journey. I could honor Liz by combing it out tomorrow morning, or I could march on, as she, perhaps would, without concern, and because we never know what awaits us around the corner.
Rest in peace, dear Liz. I will be waiting for you to show me some signs. Loud and clear, please.