A Special Gift

Cancer sucks.Lace Runner

This is a bracelet that a friend got for me, and it was designed by a young man in our county who lost his Dad to cancer. I wear it often, in memory of all the people I have known who lost their battle with cancer, and in honor of those who are still fighting. Unfortunately, I know several who are either in the midst of treatments, done with treatments and waiting on scans, or are waiting…for either a miracle or a call home.

Two years ago, one of our beloved co-workers lost her battle with cancer. Judy was only 67 years old when she passed away, and had been a hairstylist for 47 years. I had the pleasure of working with her for twelve of those years, and Shuh-Wanda worked with her for twenty-two years. While Judy was still fighting, Angel brought us all one of these bracelets to wear.

Judy was a mentor to all of us. She set the bar for what it means to be a successful hairstylist. Judy worked four days a week, but would work ten to twelve hour shifts. She was booked solid all the time; seeing her sit down was rare. She had a big family, and her world outside of working was taking care of her husband, three grown sons, three granddaughters, and even one little great-grandson. She was truly a special person.

One Thursday, Judy was at work, going 90-to-nothing as always. The next day, I got a call from Shuh-Wanda that Judy was sick with pneumonia and wouldn’t be at work. Judy worked maybe five more days, and then she found out the worst: it wasn’t pneumonia. It was a rare form of lung cancer, which took her life 18 months later. It was a long, hard fight, and fight was exactly what she did, but the cancer won.

All of us were absolutely devastated to lose her, especially Shuh-Wanda. She had worked alongside Judy for so many years, even moving to our current location together after the salon where they worked burned down. They had been through so many joys, tears, and long days in the salon together, and it was an extremely difficult time for her.

Since Judy and Shuh-Wanda were so close, and Shuh-Wanda is the owner of the salon, it came down to her to move a lot of Judy’s things out of the salon, when the time was right. Judy took home what she wanted when she was able, and left a lot of things behind that she just did not have time to deal with. One such item was a perm caddy, which looked like this,

photo 4 (3) except when it was in a state of collapse, which was often.

I remember Judy fussing and cussing over this thing numerous times. She would roll it out, get all prepared to start rolling a perm, and the stupid thing would collapse. Eventually, she just removed the middle tray altogether, and began toting it back and forth from the dispensary when she had a perm to roll.

For some reason, when all of Judy’s other things were sent home with her sons, given away, or even tossed out, this tray was still hanging around the salon. The day we had the big dispensary clean-out, which you may remember from here, Shuh-Wanda picked up that tray and told us that she just could not throw it away, and if one of us wanted to do it, that was fine. Her heart would not allow her to throw that piece out…she just couldn’t do it.

Angel waited for Shuh-Wanda to leave the room, grabbed the tray and pushed it into my hands. “Make her something out of it, Martha. It would mean so much to her,” she said pleadingly. My eyes filled with tears, my heart swelled at the thoughtfulness of her request. I knew she was right on the money. And, after all of these months, I finally did just that.

It took me a while.  It was a little bit difficult for me to decide what to do with it.  I wanted something that would last, have a purpose, and be pretty to look at.  I bought the handle first, a pretty, antique-looking Fleur-de-lis I found at Hobby Lobby.  Here is a before pic, with the handle on.

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Upon closer inspection, you can see that the tray had been used quite a lot.

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Coach helped me by using some epoxy stuff on the bottom, just where the holes were, so it could be used without fear of the bottom falling out.  Also, it kept the holes in the top, because I know Shuh-Wanda would want it to be like it was before.  The holes are a reminder of how hard Judy worked, and they are just part of the tray at this point.

Next, we got some of this. 2xpaint

I went to Home Depot, looking for spray paint that would work on plastic, and this is what they had.  Boy, does it work!  Coach helped me again by painting the tray, after a good wash and some light sanding, because spray paint and I don’t usually get along.

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The handle I bought just had a screw in the end of it, so we had to use some washers to make it fit tightly.  I had some that I had decorated a long time ago, during the washer necklace phase, so we used those.  Coach also sliced off some small pieces of cork and glued it to the bottom four corners.  It gave it some stability, and will hopefully protect it from being placed on the ground.  I finished it off by adding  in some inexpensive gardening tools, and it was ready to gift to Shuh-Wanda.  The perm tray has been transformed into a gardening tray!

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As you can imagine, Shuh-Wanda was very touched by the gesture.  She told me that she couldn’t have had anything better to remember Judy by.  Her facebook post was the best:

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When you lose someone you love, all you have left are memories, and their “things”.  It may just be an old, ratty perm tray, but it was Judy’s.  It makes me so happy that the tray lives on, and has a purpose, and will be loved and treasured by someone who will use it to its fullest potential.  That is so much better than having the tray ride out its existence in a landfill.

Judy, we miss you.  Not a day goes by that we don’t think about you and remember you standing at that corner station, working away on another head of hair.  We remember your good days, your rough days, your delicious cooking, your sweet demeanor, and yes, even you cussing that perm cart.  The past two years haven’t been the same, but we hope to make your legacy live on and honor you with our work ethic, our dedication, and our long hours on our feet.  You were amazing, and we will never forget.