Me: Hi, I’d like to make a last-minute hair appt for my sister. It’s her birthday, and I’d love to surprise her.

SpaLady: Sure, let me check with our hairdressers, and I’ll give you a call right back.

Me: Well, actually, we’re only interested in booking with Lisa. Sue says she’s the only person who’s allowed to touch her hair. [Chuckle about the silliness of girls and their hair loyalties.]

[Slight pause]

SpaLady: Honey, I would love to make an appt with Lisa for your sister’s birthday. But Lisa has passed away.

[Dead silence for a really long time]

SpaLady: Hello?

Me, choking out the words: Yes ma’am, I’m still here. I just don’t understand.

And that’s really the truth. I DON’T understand. I don’t understand how Lisa the Wonderful can be dead. She was only 40-yrs-old, for gods sake. SpaLady said she had a “platelet condition” and died unexpectedly in her sleep. Pardon me, but I still don’t understand. Lisa was ALIVE — really, really alive. She was getting married to her dear Tony, and we traded numbers because she wanted to invite my sisters and me to the after-party. I saved her cell in my phone as “Lisa The Wonderful” because that’s how we always referred to her. I never got the call, but I thought that maybe she had just decided to scale back to close friends/family. Turns out she never had the chance to get married.

She was there right after Mama died, she met us at our rawest, and she liked us anyway. She understood grief, and forgiveness, and pain. She also understood highlights, conditioning treatments, and how to cut Sue’s wildly curly hair. She listened openly and responded honestly when I was missing Mama so much that I was contemplating going to a psychic/tarot reader.

There’s a teensy-tiny, selfish, vain-girl part of me that felt very attached to Lisa’s hair-doing skills. But mostly, I felt very attached to Lisa herself. She was a wonderful, beautiful, compassionate person. She was a therapist, a consultant, and a hair expert all rolled up into one sassy, tactless, nonjudgmental, and unfailingly honest package.

Having a salon day is supposed to be a special treat… except when the hairdresser you love freakin’ DIES.

It feels so unreal. How can Lisa the Wonderful be dead?