Karen

My mother called me today and I could tell by her tone she had something important to tell me.  She said she had to tell me about an almost spiritual moment she had, that she knew I would understand.  I could hear the emotion in her voice as she began her story. 

She had gone to have her hair done, which she normally doesn’t do during the week.  When she arrived, another woman was in her hairdresser’s chair.  The woman had long salt-and-pepper hair which she was having blown dry.  She was apologetic because she had been a walk-in and she knew she was cutting into my mother’s appointment time.  My mother was happy to be out of the house for awhile and assured the woman it was fine.   

My mother, who claims she is not good with names, readily remembered Karen’s.  Karen explained the she was going to donate her hair, as she had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  But first, she was going to go out to a local state park to have her picture taken for her memorial service and she wanted her hair to look nice for the picture.  

My mother was surprised that this woman that she had only met minutes before was sharing these intimate details of her life, and impending death, but she just listened.  Karen had been a writer for the Chicago Tribune.  She had a falling out with her family, so she had moved here to the south.  She added that her family has since mended their relationships, yet she is still here alone.  

She had only been diagnosed the week before, yet was carrying a binder with the plans for the memorial.   Karen shared her music playlist for the service, which included a couple of Beatles tunes, and (One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying) Purple People Eater.  She’s obviously maintained a sense of humor. 

She is sixty.  

My mother connected with Karen in many ways.  We had lived in the Chicago area.  My youngest son is a Beatles buff.  And my mom knew about illness.  She has been caregiver to several people the past few years, and is now caring for my step-father who is living with COPD. 

Taking care of people that are sick has heightened my mother’s sense of compassion and her appreciation for life.  It has also reinforced her priorities.  My mother said she didn’t ask Karen questions, except whether she had family. 

When Karen’s hair was done, she told my mother that she needed a hug.  My mother hugged her for what seemed like minutes, and Karen left. 

My mother was so touched by this moment she shared with a complete stranger, that she had to share it with me.  I could hear the tears in her voice, and knew that we share a gratitude for our family.  We are always here for each other, in sickness and in health, and with hugs to spare.  As for Karen, I don’t know what the rest of her journey looks like, but I think my mom made today a little better for her.  

 


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