I get asked quite a bit why I am growing out my hair; I also get told quite a bit to cut it. I respond that I plan to donate my hair, a plan which at first was set with the intentions of general good will, and the sake of doing something new. But one day when I was feeling as this wasn’t all worth the trouble I thought about the person going through chemotherapy, who was in need of a wig so they can go about their daily lives without the judgmental stare of others.
Then I thought about Lauren Zarembka.
She was a classmate of mine in high school, beautiful girl; whose positive enthusiasm seemed to radiate any room she walked in. I only knew her from school; she will forever be saved in my memory bank as the girl who almost always had a glowing smile on her face.
In this age where pessimism and negativity seemed to be the norm; this trait alone always made her stand out to me. Little did I know the challenges she faced in her life; the challenges that did not bring her down but seemed to make her glow even more radiantly.
Senior year of high school I had class every day with Lauren last period. It was during this year her brain cancer has returned. I remember when she went through chemotherapy, I could sense that she wasn’t exactly herself. But she didn’t want to burden anyone else with this, her smile still planted on her face.
I was so inspired by her, and at the same time repulsed at myself. How often did I complain about such trivial matters, burdened so many people with my negative emotions. Meanwhile, with a struggle in which most of us could not even dream of; she was an uplifting influence on me and I am sure many others every day.
When the cancer seemed to have gone into remission It was an amazing feeling, but not surprising. Someone as strong as her could beat anything. For someone I only saw about an hour a day I always greatly looked forward to seeing her, just experiencing someone like her always picked my day up.
I wish more than anything in the world I had the courage then to tell her this, that I wasn’t so wrapped up in my self-important world of drama that I had taken the time to tell such an inspirational person how much I appreciated them just being themselves.
I will never forget the day I received the phone call; I was just headed out the door when my phone rang, It was a good friend of mine presumably calling to tell me some breaking news about the patriots, or something else, there were a million of possibilities in my mind of what could have been said but the words that I heard were not one of them.
The cancer came back, and Lauren had passed. I don’t remember what I said after that, I don’t believe I said anything. I remember dropping my phone and dropping to my knees in intense pain. I could’t process it; not then. Every word that was left unsaid burned inside of me like I had swallowed hot coals. The idea till this day that she is gone still hasn’t processed.
But that is because in my eyes she is still here. A person like Lauren who so effortlessly could touch the hearts of those around her does not simply vanish because we can no longer see her physically. Her influence after all these years I would estimate in the millions.
For every person for whom she role modeled her composure, her positive words and actions while going through such tribulations; is a person who is better for it and who will treat someone else better for it, who in turn will treat someone else better for it, etc. This world is truly a better place for having her in it.
I know I am better, and I can only hope to be half the person she was. I will never forget the lessons she taught simply by living with such grace, and I will never forget her smile.
So why am I growing out my hair? Because a very special person taught me that you can change a person’s life just by smiling, and I honor her whenever I can bring that happiness to someone else.