Actress Elizabeth Montgomery, of ‘Bewitched’ fame, sat at her makeup table and brushed her hair religiously before climbing into bed with Darren every night. I can still see her gently grasping a golden clump of hair with one hand, then systematically pulling the brush through with the other. It was so effortless, and ridiculously comforting and enjoyable to watch all at the same time.
My 99-year-old grandmother had just woken from an afternoon nap as I gingerly entered her room at the nursing home she now regrettably called home. She was in the process of combing her wispy, thinning white hair. She welcomed me into the room with a whisper; her mouth desperately longing for a sip of water. As I reached for the plastic cup, I thought it funny – she went for the comb before the glass of water.
My grandmother always took a healthy pride in her appearance. I’m almost positive that when she was young she didn’t worry about the number of wrinkles she would accumulate over time or the strands of hair that would fly away, never to be replaced. Today, at almost a century old, my grandmother complains about her wrinkly face, but she still applies moisturizer, and she complains about her wispy hair, but she still combs what she has been blessed to keep.
After quenching her thirst, my grandmother was eager to hear all about the goings on in my life, and she listened intently while continuing to comb her hair. As I spoke, I watched her comb; mesmerized by every deliberate stroke. She started near the top of her head, running the comb thoroughly and precisely through her hair, until the comb hit her shoulder, forcing her to start the process again.
She moved the comb methodically from one side of her head to the other. “Would you like me to comb the back?” I asked, and she whispered yes. I had never combed my grandmother’s hair before. She leaned her frail body forward, away from the interfering pillow, and I began.
“Does that feel good?” I asked, and with eyes closed, she gave a slight nod and whispered yes. I watched her expression each time I pulled the comb gently through those soft tufts of hair; it was like she was somewhere else. She seemed lost in the moment. I could tell she felt at peace, experiencing a sense of calm and contentment. I felt relaxed as well.
Simple enough. Who knew combing your hair could feel so good. For my grandmother that tiny plastic comb provided a gateway to heaven. She was lost in the pleasure of a mundane activity, and each strand of hair, from root to tip, seemed to rejoice with her.
Miraculously, I too felt lost in the moment. It’s interesting how you feel when you give of yourself, expecting nothing in return. The truth is, whether it’s chemical or emotional, when we choose to give, something inexplicable happens to us, deep within our souls. Suddenly, we are full; humbled, acknowledged, sustained, and empowered. It is a feeling beyond comprehension and explanation; it is simply good.