There isn’t one right way to react to loss. And the thing about grief? It’ll sneak up on you precisely when you’re not looking.
This morning I attended a memorial service for a 38 year-old mother of two. She died of complications from leukemia, leaving a loving husband and two children behind. We were connected by a shared friend and a diagnosis of cancer.
When Kellie was diagnosed fifteen months ago and learned she needed to have chemotherapy I offered her my scarves. I had an extensive collection from my months spent without hair and had been serially loaning them out to friends after my hair grew back. After they’d covered my head, they’d gone to a friend’s sister in Colorado who had breast cancer. Then they went to a friend down the street who also had breast cancer. The fourth head they touched was Kellie’s.
During that time I had to deny others the use of the collection. I know too many women who’ve had cancer, I thought. There isn’t a break in between their tours of duty. The scarves don’t rest, they just keep traveling.
Perhaps some might find it icky to wear a scarf of someone else’s. That never seemed an issue for my friends. In fact, their softness from being washed so often was a bonus; heads are sensitive when hair comes out and the softer the cotton is, the better.
Kellie had those scarves for a long time. Her own fiery red hair was long gone; my scarves were a poor substitute for that ginger hair of hers. I like the thought of her having something comforting and cheery to cover her head during some of those difficult days though.
After the service today the guests stood talking over coffee and tea and far too many sandwiches and baked goods. Unprompted, our mutual friend assured me the scarves were safe and would be returned soon. I know when the stack comes back I’ll touch the scarves longingly, wishing Kellie were delivering them herself.
I’m overwhelmed today with emotions… sadness at the second Mother’s Day without my beloved mother-in-law, anger at cancer for claiming another young mother, frustration that oncology is often an art more than a science, worry that it will happen to me.
I just need to think. I just need to cry. I just need to remember. I just need to live.