The Final Cut by
(87 Stories)

Prompted By Haircuts

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“Do you think my hair is falling out?” my sister asked. After going through a round of chemotherapy for lung cancer, hair loss would not be unexpected. She raked her fingers through her hair as she asked, and we both noticed  the silver strands she now held in her hand. After a moment, I asked if I should book her a haircut with Noah, our mutual hairdresser.  She had followed me when I started going to Noah for my haircuts, and we both liked his gentle scalp massages, his skill with the scissors, and his ability to engage us in lively conversation while he snipped away. Noah, I knew, would do a good job–and she definitely needed a pick-me-up, especially in light of this latest indignity. We both wanted to avoid the gradual loss of her hair, dragging out the inevitable. So I made the appointment.

It so happened that my daughter had flown in from New York to offer additional support and encouragement to her dear aunt. All three of us drove over to the salon. My daughter and I stood by and kibbitzed as my sister’s already thinning hair fell in sparse bits and clumps to the floor.

Noah gave her a short, kind of spiky do, which suited her already thin– and now even thinner– face. I asked them to pose for a picture.

Then the three of us girls went to the Berkeley Rose garden to sit in the sun and enjoy each other’s company. After a short while, my sister said she was tired, so we took her back home.

This was in February, 2015.

My sister died in May, almost a week after this picture was taken, holding the hand of my grandson Sam. I miss her every day.








Natalie Sue (Susie) Elkind







Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. Suzy says:

    Oh Risa, this is such a touching story! I am a little teary-eyed. How sweet that you took a picture of Susie with Noah after her haircut. We know about Susie from other stories, and her memory truly is a blessing.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Like Suzy, I too teared-up as I read this loving tribute to your sister. Your gentle words about Noah and his skill at massage as well as cutting hair suited the moment and your sister’s needs. The photos are a perfect compliment; you don’t need to share more.

    • Risa Nye says:

      Betsy, I debated about this choice instead of a lighter look at my own haircuts. This is the time of year that she really started to go downhill and I can’t help thinking about her and the passage of time. Noah is such a kind-hearted guy. I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to take care of her then.

  3. Such a sweet memory, Risa…thanks for sharing it with us.

  4. Khati Hendry says:

    Thanks for that lovely story. You sister was beautiful. It reminded me a bit of my dad, who was dying (acute leukemia, but not dead yet) who debated whether or not to get a haircut when he would be dead soon. He decided why not? and I cried the whole time.

    • Risa Nye says:

      Thank you, Khati. As my dad was failing, he had a wonderful attendant who made sure he got a shave every day. It was important to him to look his best no matter what. Thank you for sharing that memory of your dad.

  5. I liked the way your direct quote opening line brought us right into the situation, made it feel palpable and immediate. I also liked that the image of the infant Sam, hairless, reminds us how the cycle of life comes around and goes around. Thanks for this moving tale.

  6. Marian says:

    This is a sad but sweet and lovely memory, Risa. I love the dignity by which Noah treated your sister. I am teary eyed as well.

  7. Laurie Levy says:

    What a beautiful story, Risa. So often, we focus on a haircut as the thing that will make us look better. But knowing a friend of my daughter who just buzzed her hair short to feel some control over chemo and her cancer, this is the most brave haircut of all. I am so sorry for your loss.

  8. Risa, how bittersweet that you and your daughter spent that last hair cut with your sister.
    She does look painfully thin, but happy to be with you both and the kind hairstylist.

    May her memory be a blessing for you.

  9. John Shutkin says:

    What a sad, touching story, Risa. And beautifully told.

    Of course, the haircut was only a small part of your memory of your sister, but writing about it in this context was so very moving and effective. I am glad you have that last picture of her, but your last sentence is heartbreaking.

  10. So touching, Risa. It’s so hard losing those closest to us. This little story is so filled with love. How lucky your sister was to have you with her on her journey through life. I’ve always wanted a sister..

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