Kaity Kasper

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The Cardinal in the Yard

"I've heard that if a cardinal is in your yard it means that God is visiting you."

We were sitting on the steps to the deck as the faintest veil of rain trickled down on us.  She saw him before I did, but it was unmistakeable - there was a cardinal in my yard.

It was also unmistakeable that God was visiting me today.  After weeks of silence, He was speaking to me.

*   *   *

I woke up to an unexpectedly vacant weekend laying before me.  After having another 8 liters - or 17 pounds - of fluid drained from me yesterday, I returned home light headed and exhausted.  I spent the rest of the day on the couch, finally giving in to my body's exhaustion.  While better, the same conditions remained after nine hours of sleep, so I knew the biggest task of my day would be washing my hair.

I've been putting off the hair washing.  Because I knew lots of it would be lost.  I continued to avoid the shower as the morning ticked by, when finally, clear as a bell, I heard Him:

"Don't worry.  He's coming.  He loves you with or without hair."

And instantly, I felt at peace over my biggest fear.  Someone was out there.  And a bald head wouldn't make me unloveable to him.

*   *   *

I wasn't a girly girl growing up.  My poor mother could never get me into a dress.  I would have worn corduroy to prom if it was acceptable.  Even through law school, I was never one to embrace the joys of being feminine.  But in my thirties that changed, and I fell in love with everything about being a lady. 

In the last five weeks, so many pieces of what it means to be a woman have been lost.  My rapid weight loss has stolen my breasts, my surgeon (rightfully) snatched up my ovaries, my hourglass figure has been replaced by a ballooned abdomen, and now - now my long, dark hair is falling out all around me.  Nothing about my body is as it was.  Save maybe my eyes.  Even my heart has been transformed in this short span of time.

It begs the question - what does it mean to be a woman when all of those trappings are taken away?

It seems I am about to find out.

*   *   *

I finally had no choice but to give into the shower.  As I picked up the shampoo bottle, I paused to take in the fact that this was quite likely the last time I will wash my hair for awhile.  I promised myself that when my hair was back I would let myself buy the expensive shampoo.  The conditioner I kept meaning to try.  I vowed to myself that I could have all the hair products when I had hair again.  I would never again take my thick, dark hair for granted.

As I gently washed my hair, it fell out by the handful.  With each pass over my scalp, more and more strands gave way.  I slowly piled it on the sink - a small mountain forming as I cried.

I am not ready to lose my hair.

Who am I without it?

*   *   *

I've asked one friend to do the shaving when the time is right.  Another to hold my hand.  A third has offered to shave hers right along with me.  I know it will happen this week.  But I'm not ready today.  Not yet.

Today, what is left is piled on top of my head in a messy bun.  As I read Augusten Burroughs new memoir I found my hand repeatedly shaking the bun - checking to make sure it is still attached to my head.  I didn't dare brush it - afraid of how much more would be lost if I did.  Of what part of me would be lost.

*   *   *

After we moved in from the deck and I hugged my friend goodbye, I returned to the kitchen to make tea.  As I stood over the kettle, the deep aloneness settled into my chest before I heard Him again.

"Don't worry.  He's coming."