Friday, April 4, 2014


Today was the first day I was alone with my shaved head.

By alone, I mean without my amazing colleagues around me. It helped, for example, when we went to breakfast two days after the shave, to be at the table with four other shavees (three of them female). It helped that we were on a post-convention high, and it helped that our waiter was a stand-up comic who followed the directions on one rabbi's button: "ask me why I'm bald." When he did, we told him the story...and it helped that I could say Sam's name in the presence of those who knew him. He was phenomenal, by the way, and even offered half of his tip back to us as a donation. (Make sure you patronize Eggy's and say hi to Kolin for us.)

Me and Kolin at Eggy's
By alone, I mean that for the last four days, I was surrounded by so many people who knew my story. I was surrounded by people who held my hand and didn't even have to ask before they gave my stubbly noggin a kiss.

Some of my favorite bald rabbis (thanks to Julie Pelc Adler for the picture)
So today was the first day I was alone.
I took Solly and Yael to Costco.
Bareheaded. (Well, inside. It's still very cold here!)

I got a few odd looks.
A few that felt like sympathy.
A few that felt like empathy.
I felt exposed and a little raw.

But no one asked me about my shaved head.
And for today that felt okay.

Then I left the kids at home and ran to the grocery store.
All by myself.

I left my warm hat on in the store.
I felt exposed even with my hat on my head.
I felt a little like I was venturing out into the world for the first time.

I've heard that amputees often feel "phantom pain" in their missing limb.
I'm feeling "phantom hair" as I move my head around.

It mirrors the "phantom child" feeling I have.
The sense that I should divide things into four portions.
The sudden worry that I'm coming up one short.

At the convention, we laughed and we cried, we joked and we teased.
Now that I'm home, reality feels so big.

People keep asking me what Sammy would have thought of all of this.
I so dearly wish I could ask him.

One year ago today

P.S. You can still donate to our St. Baldricks campaign through the end of 2014.


  1. What a wonderful picture of Sam😊
    I went to the Alef service at our temple last night, the service that is held the first Friday of each month for those of us who are sick. Guess that includes me. I sat there and thought of Debbie who is passing out again, and when they said the kadish a couple of tears got me when I thought of your Sam.
    There's so many difficult parts of life that we need to get through. And we will. You and Rabbi Michael and Judi and Harold for all of your children, and me for my children and grandchildren.
    We will fight our way through because we have to!!!
    Shabbat shalom,
    Grandma Joan

  2. Phyllis I've been reading your blog for many months now; we have some common friends, as I grew up in Fox Point. I nearly fell off my chair this morning when I saw the photo you posted of yourself with sweet Kolin, the Eggy's waiter...he is my sister's boyfriend, such a wonderfully compassionate guy. I could not be more tickled that the two of you met.

    Blessings on your and your many people love and support you.
    Anna Gilbert
    Minocqua, WI

  3. The loudest ladies in the room,
    It was truly my pleasure to have met you and to have heard your story. The work you are doing is inspiring! Thank you for the kind words you have said about me. Keep up the good work!

    -Kolin Bohannon (Your waiter at Eggys)

  4. All of y'all shaved-headed rabbis are so beautiful. The heart and soul behind the act shine through.

    And, I can imagine how weird it is to go from long hair to stubble.

    And, I can imagine the "phantom child" experience you describe.

    Every time I see Sammy's pictures here, my heart cracks open again for you and Michael and your family. What a beautiful guy he is.

    I hope your shabbos is restorative and sweet.

  5. I'd love to shake Kolin's hand! And I don't care where we ran into each other, I'd ask you to let me kiss your noggin! Thanks again for letting Sammy follow al of us around.

  6. may your coming week be filled with warmth. shavua tov.

  7. The headshaving seems to be an important catalyst to get your story out. I may have missed this, but how much of the shorn hair was donated to wigmakers?

    May your bald heads be by choice and not as a result of chemo or illness.