Ben cut my hair for many years when I lived in Atlanta. He was always crazy affordable: $20. And he gave me the best haircut I’ve had since my previous favorite stylist, Sarah. (Sarah cut my hair for many, many years back in the 1990’s before we moved to California. She was also in Atlanta.)
When I lived in Atlanta during the pandemic, Ben would always work me in early or late; so, it was typically just us in the salon, even though the work stations were always at least 10 feet apart. He was always wearing a mask and was good about cutting my hair around my mask.
Ben had sinus issues. As a result he was extremely worried about Covid and was tested monthly. A young man in his early 40’s, he was otherwise in good health with the exception of an occasional limp. One of his legs would swell. Everyone told him to go to the doctor. He said it would come and go for years and was just gout.
To book an appointment, I would always text him in advance with a suggested date. He would reply back with the times he had available. It worked efficiently. The last thing I did the day before leaving Atlanta to move to Oregon was get my haircut from Ben. He was a really nice guy. He refused payment even though I insisted. He just wasn’t having it.
We had to make a required trip to Atlanta a couple of weeks ago. A week before we were to go to Atlanta at the end of August, I sent him a text message to schedule a haircut while we were there. He didn’t reply, which was unusual. The next day I called and left a message. The following day I texted him again and told him I would just stop by to see if he had any availability on the day I would be free to get my haircut. No reply. I had never been ghosted online before from anyone and was surprised it would be from Ben.
Early on that Atlanta morning, I walked into the salon to see if he was working. Only one stylist was working in the salon then. He was new. I hadn’t seen him in all of the years I had gone here. I asked him if Ben was working today. He stopped cutting hair and, looking directly at me said, “Ben is dead.”
His comment was so unexpected, I had a difficult time making sense of it. What did he mean? Surely he didn’t really mean that Ben was actually “dead.” Ben was too young and too healthy to be dead. Was this some really inappropriate joke?
“Dead?” I questioned.
“Yes, dead. Did you have an appointment?”
“No. I’m in town for the day and thought I would see if he could work me in. Dead? How did he die?”
“I don’t know. Let me see if someone else can cut your hair.”
He opened the door to their workroom and spoke with someone, Donna. She came out and said she could cut my hair. I had seen her working in the salon many times before.
Naturally, I was filled with questions.
One morning, the week before, Ben just didn’t show up for work. One of his clients came in and waited. They tried calling him. He didn’t answer. After several attempts to reach him, they called his partner, Brandon.
His partner was frantic. “He didn’t get up this morning. He’s still in bed.”
“What do you mean, ‘He’s still in bed?”
“He’s still in bed. He’s still in bed.” he replied hysterically.
“Are you saying Ben passed away?”
“Yes! He’s still in bed!”
Most of the people at this salon have worked together for 15+ years and are very close. They rushed over to his home. Ben had unexpectedly passed away in his sleep. No one had a clue what had happened to him. He was fine. He went to bed. He died in his sleep. How could that have happened?!
According to the autopsy, Ben had a blood clot in his leg. This is apparently what would cause his leg to swell. Even though everyone at his work insisted he go to the doctor, Ben never did. It wasn’t gout. The clot traveled to his brain and killed him in his sleep.
Everyone was still very much in shock as it had just happened the previous week when I was texting Ben to get an appointment. To make matters even worse, Ben was a very popular stylist who had many, many clients he had been seeing for years. Since he booked his own clients, and because no-one had access to his phone, not even his partner, they can’t reach out to tell people the sad news. Clients are showing up for their appointments and are devastated by the unexpected news.
I was shocked and saddened to hear this news. Ben was a really nice guy. He was incredibly easy going, kind, and very friendly. He had the perfect job for him because he not only liked to talk, he was easy to talk to. And his haircuts were the very best I’ve ever had. He said he cut them in three different directions. I’m not sure what that meant, I just had evenly cut and perfectly feathered hair.
I hate that he is gone. Rest in Peace. Your life was much too short.
I seem to have bad luck with my favorite hair stylists. I mentioned my other favorite stylist, Sarah. Also young (late twenties or early thirties), very sweet and kind, she died unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm. She passed out cutting a client’s hair when I was on my way to see her for my haircut. She was rushed to the hospital. Her family had to make the difficult system to remove life support a couple of days later.