“Beauty doesn’t come from physical perfection. It comes from the light in our eyes, the spark in our hearts, and the radiance we exude when we’re comfortable enough in our skin to focus less on how we look and more on how we love.” ~Lori Deschene
Since childhood, my mother had long silky black locks that went all the way to her knees. It attracted many people, and it inspired curiosity.
Strangers would approach her wherever she went. They were usually shy at first, but after she gave them her friendly smile and head nod, they began to relax and begin asking questions.
“How long did it take you to grow your hair?”
“How long does it take to wash it?”
“It must take forever to dry.”
“Can I touch it?”
“Wow, it feels like silk! Annie, come feel her hair!”
“Does it ever get caught in anything?”
“You must spend a lot of money on shampoo.”
Everybody walked away from the meeting smiling regardless of how many comments they made or how long it lasted. It was as if everything had changed.
My mother has an open, warm aura. When we’re out in public, she has a way of making people feel instantly valued and appreciated. My sisters and I call it “mom’s juju,” some kind of mystical power that brings out the good in everyone and everything.
She makes eye contact with strangers and if someone doesn’t avert their eyes away quickly, she nods her head slightly, as if bowing down to them in respect, and offers them a big, generous smile that immediately warms them, causing them to smile back.
She has a radiant inner happy glow that’s contagious, and over my fifty years of knowing her, I’ve witnessed people shift from closed off and rigid to open and free in a swift, instantaneous moment. It’s almost as if they’ve suddenly been released by a heavy clamp that was holding them down and they stand up taller, happier, lighter… even if only for a moment.
Mom’s juju makes people come alive.
It’s ironic that she’s an introvert like me, and I often think about this when I’m out in public.
I confess that I go into “robot mode” where I forget I’m human and that everyone around me are humans too. I usually do this when I’m short on time and have a specific, focused goal, like grocery shopping.
I avoid eye contact and deliberately close off my energy, especially when I don’t want to be approached, bothered with small talk, or exchange energy with others. I just want to shop; I don’t want to connect, chat, or stay any longer than it takes me to get my food and leave.
But my mom, she’s different. She reminds us that we love each other and are open to connecting. She reminds me that it’s more important to connect soul to soul, human to human, than to check off that next thing on my to-do list. She reminds me of the true meaning of the word, “Namaste,” and is the living, breathing embodiment of it.
You are the divine within me.
When she nods her head upon greeting someone, she’s bowing to the divine in the other person.
Most people think she’s bowing because it’s an Asian tradition, but to my mom, it’s more than a rote action imposed by a tradition, it’s a gesture of genuine love and respect because she truly does recognize the divine in everyone. And in her recognition of them, they too recognize it in themselves, even if only for a moment, even if they can’t explain it or understand it. The exchange made them feel completely different.
My mom’s hair was often the icebreaker for this exchange. People could approach her through it.
Her hair, like the sirens of Greek mythology who lured sailors to the shore with their singing, lured them into seeing their divinity. Although they thought she was a magnet for their hair, they found themselves drawn to the beauty and divinity within them. It was only the seductive song.
This was something that no one, even my mother, knew.
My mom saw her hair as a part of her identity and beauty. In a world that has the capacity to tear down anyone’s value, my mom’s hair made her feel unique, exotic, special.
People loved to pay attention to her hair and, eventually, it became a source of her self-worth.
My mom was diagnosed late 2011 with breast cancer.
My mother said that beyond the fear of death, the idea of losing hair was harder than getting cancer. So she imagined not only being able to survive it, but also having all her hair back, regardless of what the nurses and doctors said.
If anything could break the rules of science and chemotherapy induced hair loss, we thought, mom’s juju could.
Her beautiful, long hair fell out of place after many weeks of chemotherapy. It left bald spots that made her look even more sickly and frail, and we realized there are some things mom’s positive juju couldn’t affect.
Cancer has a way of ravaging you and it doesn’t care who you are or how you feel about it
On one ceremonious and tearful morning, my mom surrendered to cancer’s command and asked my oldest sister to shave her head.
It was an emotionally, traumatic, but beautiful moment of loss and acceptance. She watched as her hair fell to the ground, one by one.
It is pure, simple and unstained.
She looked in the mirror and saw herself for the first time—the person she was without the thing that she’d thought made her, well, HER. She saw a beautiful, unmistakable, and special woman looking back at her.
I don’t know what my mom was expecting to see after losing her hair. Perhaps there was a part of her that didn’t expect to see anything, as if once she lost her hair, she’d somehow cease to exist. She thought her identity was so intertwined in her hair, that it might have to be lost.
But she wasn’t. But she was there. She lived.
My mom was liberated by this realization. My mom no longer contained her uniqueness, beauty and identity around her hair. She had no other choice, and Cancer was certain of it. The dead hair from the floor had wiped away any illusion of an aged, outworn persona and was tossed in trash.
She found her new identity—an identity that was based off her inner beauty, not her outer beauty. It was not what she had been looking for, but she discovered that she was beautiful and unique without it. People began complimenting her about her baldness.
With the same head nods and grins, she replied as though free from any illusions of beauty.
Her freedom was complete.
This was the gift of mom’s cancer.
Cancer has a way of ravaging your false identities and reminding you of what’s real and true.
Now, eleven years later and cancer free, my mom’s hair has grown back. It’s not the same as it once was, thick and shiny black silk. It’s now thin and gray.
A new person emerged with a stronger and more radiant juju and her beauty shines brighter than ever.
Tree Franklyn, a best-selling author who is also the founder of Empathic Awakening Academy. Empaths and sensitive individuals can learn to let go of their overpowering emotions and regain their sense of self to live a life full with meaning, purpose and power. Treefranklyn.com offers free access to her four-step method to transform pain emotion.
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Tiny Buddha’s first post, The Beauty in Her Baldness. Why My Mother Was Still Radiant in Cancer appeared on Tiny Buddha.