The doctor’s expression mixed disbelief with doubt. “You actually want us to shave his whole head?” I answered with a smile. “Yes. If you shave part of it for the incision and stitches, it will be uneven and it will be terrible to cut around in a few weeks.”
The doctor shrugged with a smile. “Most mothers panic about their kids going bald. Then again, I guess you’ve done all this before. We can shave it. He will most likely lose it all in a few weeks if he gets radiation though.”
The third week of radiation treatments often bring side effects of hair loss, skin rashes and discoloration, and ‘discomfort’. We learned with William that hair often falls out in patches in a way that is itchy and most unattractive. Eventually, William just needed a buzzed “Buddy Cut” from Dad. He was a smooth headed 2 year old by the following week.
Jonathan’s head is still sensitive from his new scar and his hair falling out and into his collar will make him most displeased, so we decided to bite the bullet early. With a new fuzzy hat in tow that matches his favorite red and black pattern, we made a night of it.
Ever the leader of our family and an example for our sons, my husband got the clippers out and let Jonathan give his first ‘buddy cut’ as it is called in the military.
Then Jonathan’s turn.
However, William got jealous. He loves having buzzed hair so that people will rub his head.
I too, cut about 6 inches of hair off.
Last but not least, without the permission or blessing of my mother, my amazing father joined in. He has been here helping for a month, which has probably kept me from pre-term labor. When Jonathan woke from sedation last time he hugged me and then promptly asked for Pop. Three generations of cancer support. (He did buy matching hats for all the boys.)
We’ve been honored by several friends who have shaved their heads in William’s honor. A shaved head is quite a symbol. Now known as a side effect for cancer treatments, it is an indicator that the body may not be as healthy as it appears externally.
Hair is a big deal. Hair-care is a billion dollar industry and a way people represent themselves. The bible mentions hair 88 times in various contexts, from identifying and treating contagious diseases to honoring gray hair that comes with the passing of time. I am convinced the ER trips alone turned my mother’s auburn hair into her current gorgeous white. She taught me this verse early on:
Gray hair is a crown of glory;
it is gained in a righteous life. Proverbs 16:31
Gray hair and natural baldness have their mention, but there is an entirely different context for grief-induced baldness. It was a sign of great lament or capture to have one’s head shaved. People would tear their clothes, shave their heads or sprinkle ashes on their hair, and enter a state of severe, profound grief. The wailing was accompanied with grief that God had forsaken them, which is often how it feels when grief is encompassing. There are dozens of such verses.
“‘Cut off your hair and cast it away;
raise a lamentation on the bare heights,
for the LORD has rejected and forsaken
the generation of his wrath.’ Jeremiah 7:29
Grief, struggle, depression and mourning are all evidenced both inwardly and outwardly. Right now some of our struggles and trials are evident physically. I am about to give birth and it is incredibly evident by my physical appearance. We all look a bit weathered and exhausted from bags under our eyes but also the intensity you will see from eye contact with any of us. Fighting for one’s life will do that, but fighting with one’s faith is eternally significant.
In this family our struggles and our victories are shared across generations. Both of my sons will bear similar white scars over their hearts that are unique from the rest of the world.
Yes, we are struggling but we are sustained. Our glory is in obeying the Lord and learning to suffer well, not in health and great hair. If we teach our children, we must show them.
Make yourselves bald and cut off your hair,
for the children of your delight; Micah 1:16 a
The glorified body is coming. I can’t wait.