Fading to gray

A few weeks ago I went into Cost Cutters and asked the stylist for a haircut to help me transition from coloring my hair to letting it grow out gray because I wasn’t going to color my hair any more. As she combed through my hair, she said, “Until it all grows out and you say, ‘What have I done?!'” I assured her that wouldn’t happen since I had recently had a life-altering experience.

In the week before I knew the metastatic extent of the melanoma, I thought about all the times I wondered if I should keep coloring my hair. I thought about how I had vowed – in my younger, pre-gray days – to never color my hair and instead grow gray gracefully. That changed with the birth of my youngest child, when gray appeared and I was still a relatively young mother. I caved and colored, which of course requires periodic maintenance if one wants to look more like a respectable person and less like a skunk.

Sitting through that week of the unknown, not knowing how far my future might or might not extend, the thought of a head of gray hair took on a whole new meaning. From this cancerous vantage point, if I lived long enough to be gray, it would be an honor and a privilege. It didn’t matter that I felt much younger than my 55 years, or was more fit than many women decades younger than I. None of that vanity mattered.

What mattered was breathing. What mattered was waking up to look in the mirror and marvel at the gray. What mattered was being given the opportunity to grow gray. What mattered was watching my children and grandchildren grow older and wiser as they watched me gracefully gray.

Sitting alone at our kitchen table one night that week, I promised God and myself that if I lived, it would be an honor to be gray. Other women still question my decision to give up hair dye until I tell them this story. However, the grayer I become the more I will celebrate simply because I am alive. Seems like an easy decision to me.


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