I remember early on in seminary learning the proper etiquette for leading people through tough decisions. One of the areas we discussed, “ad-nauseum,” was funerals. One of the failures that many pastors make is getting involved in the decision making process of said event. We learned in, “cemetery,” (like how I did that) its a big no-no. The problem is that when we, as pastors, make decisions for people, if anything goes wrong, we will inevitably become the bad guy. Our good intentions do not matter. Aunt Sue will still get angry at us because she didn’t want Grans to be in the plain cherry-wood casket but the one decked out with the Texas flag and chrome-yellow roses (If you’ve ever lived in TX, you know what I am taking about.)
Over the years, I have made it a rule to be compassionate but distant, to lead people but not make decisions for them. It has always worked well for me. I have been able to help people think logically through a situation and then prayerfully make a decision that is both best for them and honors God. However, when the person you are leading and discussing things with is your bride, everything changes.
As I said in my previous post, we decided not to shave our hair off a few weeks ago. This gave us some time to transition. It gave us time to process. It gave us time to dream we could be that unique family who didn’t lose their hair. And then our hair began to thin out. It wasn’t drastic. Little hairs began to softy come out more and more. We never saw chunks, we never saw gapping holes. It was a slow, methodical, decline.
Every morning Andrea would stand in front of the of the mirror, carefully combing her hair. She would carefully try to style it in such a way that the least amount of hair would fall out. As time went on, it became harder and harder to style. While her hair did not look bad, it was thin. Trying to make it stay in place was very difficult and this was compounded with the problem that if she combed too hard or pulled too much….more hair would come out. After each styling session there was a cleaning routine. She would quietly collect the hair that was in the sink and on the floor and then place it in trash can.
Once styled she would look to me and asked two questions,
“How does it look,”
“Are there any holes?”
As time progressed we began discussing the inevitable. Our first conclusion was that we would shave her head at home. So we went to the store, bought a razor and came home. Buying the electric razor was weird. We knew why we were getting it but I tried to make it a none-issue by telling my bride I needed a new beard trimmer anyways. Which was true but It didn’t make the trip to Bed Bath and Beyond any more fun.
The decision of when was hard. I couldn’t bring myself to be the one to tell Andrea to cut her hair. I had this awful feeling in my gut that I would push her too soon and it would cause more emotional strain. It would break a small part of her. It would make the healing tougher. So, I tried to lead her through the process per my training. But I couldn’t be distant with my wife. I couldn’t lead her to make decisions as if I had no investment in it. I refused to be distant.
So, we talked a lot. We hoped a lot. We held each other a lot. We just couldn’t decide on the right time. We would vacillate between the inevitability of shaving it and the desire to keep what is ours. Fear was a huge factor. The fear of what she would look like. The fear of how she would feel after it was gone. The fear of dealing with the public. We didn’t want to be out and about and have people stare at us because her hair was falling out. Now, I am not a violent man, but I promise you, I would quickly go Planet of the Apes if someone gave my wife a snarky look or giggled.
Often times, when Andrea would go into the bathroom, I would stand outside like a stalker and listen for buzzing sounds. I was prepared. I was ready. I was not going to let my bride walk that journey alone. But she never could do it. She certainly didn’t want me doing it. I had this reoccurring thought in my head…….while trying to shave her head somehow I would cut her scalp all to pieces. I would scar her or at best just irritate her a whole lot. So, I never felt comfortable cutting it. However, it became evident we needed to do something.
So we went back to Trendz. We went back to Julie. It was the right call. I knew it was the right move when Andrea asked me to bring my camera. I knew at that moment, she would be okay. Julie made Andrea comfortable. Julie took care of my wife like she was family. In the room with us was Erin. Andrea wanted her there. I was glad she came.
I stood in the room with my camera. Snapping shots away at a ferocious speed. I listened to the soft buzzing of the razor as it glided across my wife’s head, it’s metal teeth removing what was left of her hair. I watched as her strawberry blond strands slowly cascaded down to the floor and created a memory in my soul. The whole time I was clicking
away. Allowing the sounds of the shutter and soft ambient flashes to keep me occupied. Then, when it was all done I looked up. I saw my wife with only a thin layer of hair on top of her head and the only thought racing through my mind was, “She’s beautiful.”
Since then we had had fun modeling different hats, scarfs and even our whig. I am biased but I think she looks great in all of them. When its just us, she doesn’t wear anything. There is no need to. It’s not weird, I don’t feel sorry for her. I don’t sit and blubber over my wife losing her hair. I am astonished. I am intrigued. I am proud that she knows that blond color and cute hairstyles don’t define her. I am proud that she is fighting. While Andrea didn’t want to make it in to an event, in some ways it was a sober celebration. It was a declaration that we will soon be rid of “Ole Scruffy.” He may take her hair but he won’t take her. And so now, we sit and let the cool breeze from the fan blow over her had and dream. We dream about this all being over. We dream about our life post-Scruffy. We dream about the day when ocean breezes will once again push her long blond hair all over her face as we #LookTowardstheSea!