When my illness was at its worst, a few months before surgery put my Crohn’s into remission, close to half of my hair fell out.
This is common when your body goes through trauma (women often deal with this after childbirth), and I knew it at the time. I also had enough hair to cover my head, even with much of it missing, so I didn’t panic. My one concern was that it might grow back gray, or fine, or somehow different from the rest of my hair.
A few weeks ago I was trying to remember the name of a band I used to listen to, and for the life of me I couldn’t. I remembered one of the songs I liked, so I looked it up, and was reminded that Girlyman was the name of the band I’d liked so much.
I had listened to them before I got sick, before four years of a long-distance relationship and fierce illness had stirred life up into a blinding windstorm, and before it all suddenly calmed again. Somehow in that tumult I simply forgot about them. This shocked me.
If I’m trying to remember when something happened in those years, I often think “how sick was I?” in an effort to place it in a certain year. To the confusion of new friends, I occasionally say it out loud. Illness marked my life so clearly I date the rest of my life against it.
At the time I realized – and forgive me if you have heard this from me before – this is what life is, a series of griefs and traumas until you die. And yes, this is true. Those traumas write themselves on our hearts and bodies and divide our lives into endless befores and afters.
But until the end we keep having afters. Our hair grows back, we keep loving, we listen to music, life goes on. We don’t insult our before by thriving in our after; we honor it.