There is a wonderful tale of a farmer who lived on a homestead that had been in his family for many generations. It was a beautiful place, the fields green and verdant, an orchard of trees that yielded the sweetest of fruit. But their greatest source of pride was a massive oak. It was a magnificent specimen, which provided cooling shade in the summer and was, according to family lore, at least a hundred years old. One day, as a particularly brutal thunderstorm passed through their land, a bolt of lightning struck the tree, splitting it in two. The family stood in disbelief, mourning the beautiful symbol of the legacy they shared. The decision was made to cut it down, carefully splitting and stacking the wood for the cold winter months.
“This is such a tragedy,” his son said. “I will miss that tree for the rest of my life.”
“Perhaps that is true,” replied the wise farmer, “but now, with it gone, we are better able to see the moon.”
In these days of treatment and pain, it is easy to focus on what I have lost, to cry out in grief for the moments that had yet to be realized, the dreams deferred. But then, I realize that it has forced me to remove the superficial in my life, the things I thought held such importance, but were nothing but fragments of a reality that was merely an illusion. As a result, I have cleared the way to see that which is real and true and lasting. I have been able to cast my gaze upward and see the moon.
It is quite spectacular.
Unfortunately, you often must lose something of great perceived value in order to gain something even more precious. My hair is falling out in clumps. My doctor suggested that I cut it short to lessen the trauma on my scalp, which feels like it is on fire. And so, today was the day. I didn’t cry in the salon as my dear friend and hairdresser chopped away, my long locks falling onto the floor. He made jokes and told stories to keep me distracted. It worked. Sorta.
I stopped at the grocery store on the way home. When I passed a mirror and didn’t recognize myself, I understood why this hair issue has loomed so large for me, why I dreaded this more than any other part of my journey. As long as my looks didn’t change, I was able to see myself as I have always been. I could deny being sick. But that isn’t reality, and although sometimes I feel like the earth has stopped spinning, that certainly isn’t the case.
I will admit that when I got to my car, I cried. The tears flowed until my face was puffy and swollen. And then, something occurred to me. Didn’t Joan of Arc cut her hair short before she rode into battle? And wasn’t she brave and strong, a soldier inducted into God’s army? And so, shedding my locks has become symbolic of the fight against the alien who has invaded my body. I am at war. I suddenly realized that I have spent my whole life preparing for this moment. When it arrived, I thought that I was not ready. But you know what? I was wrong.