Keep your angels out

. February 19, 2013.

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. 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. Sue Federman, friend and personal physician, sent her my way thinking (actually knowing) that she would help me through the whole breast cancer experience.

She showed up on my doorstep one afternoon and announced that we were going wig shopping before the affects of chemo would rob me of my thick blond tresses. As we proceeded through the door of a beauty supplier, 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, seeming to experience an instantaneous epiphany that I was not a woman of color.

We headed to another local store where a creamy, white woman coaxed a foreign object onto my head which made me resemble June Clever on a bad hair day. As she attempted to fluff me into s u b m i s s i v e – ness, 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 slowly squeezed out the anxiety that had taken 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 angle, would stretch out her arms and remind me that there will be peace.

Mary Helen Darah has been in marketing and development for nonprofit organizations for the past six years, but her greatest role is being a mom to three amazing and diverse young women. Mary Helen has an innate ability to find humor in her trials, and hopes her writing will give others comic relief and insight through the challenges of parenthood. Mary Helen can be reached c/o