–by Mary Helen Darah
PUBLICATION DATE: MAY 2017
It’s early spring and I spot her. The other remnants of anything pertaining to the holidays are safely tucked away in their concrete holding cell, known as the basement. The last “hold out” is a wooden angel on my coffee table by a local folk artist. Her outreached arms never tire of holding a small sign that states with hopeful determination, “peace on earth.” I love her chronic optimism and every effort to replace her with a more appropriate spring genre is futile.
I have the living breathing version of my folk art treasure which might explain my unwillingness to part with her. Her name is Virginia Mason. She is an “in your face” reminder of the power of positive thinking. A friend of mine sent her my way thinking, actually knowing, that she would help me through my breast cancer journey.
She showed up on my doorstep one afternoon and announced that we were going wig shopping before the effects of chemo would rob me of my thick blond tresses. As we proceeded through the door of a beauty supplier in the south end, I saw an assortment of dark haired selections, an abundance having the “fro” style. I gently told Virginia that I just didn’t see anything that was sparking my interest. She stared at me and seemed to have an instantaneous epiphany that I was not a woman of color.
We headed to another local shop where a creamy white woman coaxed a foreign object on my head that made me resemble June Cleaver on a bad hair day. As she attempted to fluff me into submissiveness, she rattled off the latest statistical data on the disease that Virginia and I share. As the woman continued to slap percentages on my mortality, I felt as if my hope was being pureed in a blender and liquefied into a thick fear. Virginia locked eyes with me and repetitively declared like a Gregorian chant, “Girl, you will be FINE. You will get through this. Keep the faith.” Miraculously, an odd sense of calm was slowly squeezing out the anxiety that took up residence in every inch of my being. I would love to tell you that I maintained that peaceful state in the months ahead. Who are we kidding, it lasted roughly seven minutes. Through the trials of being injected, stuck in tubes, scanned, drained, and stitched, the panic would once again resurface. When it did, Virginia, just like my wooden angel, would stretch out her arms and remind me that there will be peace.