The Sisterhood of the Scarves

May 3rd, 2011 § 24 comments

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.

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§ 24 Responses to The Sisterhood of the Scarves"

  • Shari says:

    I don’t have the right words to say, other than, I took a few extra minutes to read this today, as I know it was exceptionally hard for you to write. Thoughts are with you.

  • Kcecelia says:

    I love your story of the shared scarves.

    The memorial service for my friend David, who died of a brain tumor, was on 27 February. It was a huge group of folks; he had many friends whose lives he had touched in one way or another. There were two hours set aside for reminiscences and music. Boxes of kleenex were in each row of chairs, and we used them. David died the previous May when I was on a trip. Sue, his wife, and my good friend, sent out an email telling us all he was getting weaker. I sent them both a loving note, which he got the day before he died. There was nine months between his death and the memorial, but it seemed he had just died. Sue misses her soul mate. His young adult children miss their dad, felt lucky to have had him as long as they did, wanted a lifetime more. I miss my good friend and loving supporter through tough times. I could use his advice right now. As I thought it would, his memorial brought up memories of my beloved brother-in-law, Lorenz, who died in 2007.

    As much as I can, I understand about the loss of your friend. I send you my love and support.

    Cry, remember, and know, in my opinion, you are doing a great job of living your life.

  • Ann Gregory says:

    I hope to see a day when those scarves can be retired.

  • Thinking of you and Kellie.

  • Julie Punishill says:

    Once again, you open up are vulnerable and let all of us read what makes you you, Lisa. So well written and a tribute to how Kellie touched your life.

  • Lisa, I’m sorry for your loss of Kellie. The story about the scarves is quite touching. As one who lost her hair, I understand about the softness thing. Well worn scarves are something special, you can almost feel the love as well as the softness coming through the worn fibers.

    Give yourself permission to feel your emotions, whatever they might be. I’m trying to do the same as I face another Mother’s Day without my mom.

  • craftychicky says:

    In my day job, I manage medical bills for people with chronic illnesses. Many have cancer, many more are young and have young families. My heart aches, even though I see such a small part of their journey. Ive seen many, many miracles. I have also seen a lot of pain.
    I am grateful my mother in law beat breast cancer. I’m equally heartbroken that colon cancer took my dad before he could walk Mr me down the aisle & meet his grandson. My father in law also died from colon cancer, he saw us get married but he wasn’t there to.meet my little guy.
    This Sat I will run to raise $ for breast cancer. I run because I can. I run because not everyone has a traveling scarf to wear. I run to restore dignity to patients. I run because I’m grateful I dodged the bullet twice with cancer scares. I run for those who can’t.

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  • Pamela Carlson says:

    I’m so sorry your scarves are returning to you because Kellie is gone. Oh, alas, it is so difficult to lose friends and loved ones. xo

  • Kdidd says:

    What an amazing post. So sorry for your loss.

    When a child I knew passed away from a soft-tissue cancer, her parents donated her hats to the children’s hospital where she was treated. It’s sad that they are still in use, but nice to know those animal-design hats might be making another child smile.

  • Joanne Firth says:

    Oh Lisa, I’m so very sorry for the loss of your friend. Knowing you as long as I have, I see how emotionally involved you get. Your generosity and sensitivity to others, especially women with cancer. Your thoughtfullness to share your beauiful scarves with other women, touches me deeply. Only one who has gone through a hair loss would understand how special of a gift that truly is. The little white, terry cap you sent me was the one I wore the most. I cherished that gift like no other because it was perfect in its comfort, warmth, and durability.

    I hope you are able to share how you feel when you get your scarves back. I also hope you let us comfort the intense feelings that are going to happen when you do, the very least we can do for someone as loving and caring as yourself. I won’t be able to share my little, white cap, because it is something I could never part with. I attach that gift from you to courage and the will to continue. I will always be greatful for that little striped package, if not for that, I would have had nothing to cover my head when the time had come. Thank you for that, and thank you for sharing your traveling scarves story.

  • Dana says:

    What a moving and eloquent post – I can’t imagine how difficult it is to be in this sisterhood and to lose a member to this horrible disease. Prayers for you and your friend who is gone. So sorry for your loss.

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