Years ago, on the first day of my mother's chemotherapy, the day my father shaved his head, my mother made a statement of defiance. Upon seeing my father, sans his ice-white hair, my mother kissed his brow. She told him she loved him and he that had done a sweet thing, which was truly appreciated. Then, she looked him dead in the eyes and set her jaw.
"I am not going to lose my hair," she said to him.
My brother related this tale to me when we spoke on the subject. At the time, I have not seen my mother with my own eyes in over half a year, and had wondered how her won battle with malignancy has left her. What scars she might have borne. At one point, she told me she was skinnier than I am. It was only given to assume my mother lost her hair.
It was my father who taught me the lesson I of assuming when I was twelve, but, in this context, I must have not been paying attention...
My mother and I finally spoke again. She sounded upbeat and otherwise cheerful. Other than the memories and the stories, it was hard to tell, by the sound of her voice, that she had ever been ill. Back then, this added to a growing feeling of hope. That she had beaten the illness, instead of months later phoning me in tears to tell me she was terminal. Naturally, I asked her about the tale my brother related to me about keeping her hair. There was a brief heartbeat of silence. I imagined she was setting her jaw in defiance.
"I didn't lose a strand," she said.
Years later, I can still smile remembering that. Even with her gone now, in those moments, the feeling of hope was as tangible as a gentle touch. It has been that sense of hope I hold on to, because, simpy as it sounds, even in the face of the bleakest, hope is a more precious commodity than folding paper, jingling coins, rubies, or glass beads.