A Rich Life Reflected in Her Features

She’d never really liked her face. But then she’d never really looked at it, either

By Marion Bond West, Watkinsville, Georgia

As appeared in

I’d never really liked my face. My mouth was way too small, my nose not dainty enough. In my teens I complained to my mother about every facial flaw I thought I had, especially not having a cute little turned-up nose. She’d say, “Your face is lovely the way God made it.”

I’d even asked God to forgive me for being so vain. Yet now, in my seventies, I liked my face even less. Every time I looked in the mirror, I found something else I wanted to cover up. Another age spot. Another line. Another unwanted souvenir of the passage of time.

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If I could have erased every sign of aging with makeup, I would have.

My dressing area was littered with all manner of lotions and potions promising to deliver something marvelous for my skin. The clutter drove my husband, Gene, crazy (he’s so neat and tidy our friends call him Mr. Clean), but he knew better than to ask me to get rid of my cosmetic arsenal.

I couldn’t imagine living without makeup. Lately I’d been toying with taking more drastic measures, having some surgical “refreshing” done like some of my friends. Sometimes I leaned close to the bathroom mirror and pulled my face back with my hands so everything looked firm and taut.

I had to admit, I liked it. Just for fun, I imagined waking up and a beaming plastic surgeon telling me, “You’re going to be very pleased, Marion.”

One day I was applying a new spray foundation, checking the mirror to make sure the color blended perfectly into my neck, when I noticed a tiny red bump near my chin. Now what? Yet another indignity of aging–senior pimples?

When it didn’t go away after two weeks, I went to my dermatologist, Dr. Maffei.

She kept a close watch on me anyway because my reddish hair, fair skin and freckles–like pale polka dots–put me at higher risk for skin cancer. I wore a good sunscreen and tried to avoid direct sunlight. Still, she’d had to remove a squamous cell carcinoma from my leg a few years back.

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Dr. Maffei examined my skin carefully. First my face, then my body. She scrutinized the red bump on my chin. She also found something close to my nose, which somehow I’d missed. And there was a freckle on my upper left arm that didn’t look like the other freckles.

“I’ll biopsy these places on your face–probably basal cell carcinomas–and the one on your arm,” she said. “We’ll give you a call.” I knew basal cell carcinomas are the most common form of skin cancer and rarely spread, so I wasn’t concerned.

A few days later, Dr. Maffei’s assistant called. “We have your results back, Marion. The first one, on your arm, is a superficial melanoma.”

Regardless of the adjective before it, the word melanoma scared me so much I had to force myself to concentrate on what she said next.

“The ones on your face are basal cell cancers, as Dr. Maffei suspected. Let’s make an appointment for the superficial melanoma first.”

The next week Dr. Maffei removed the melanoma. She went to the lab to look at it under a microscope and came back to the exam room. “All margins are clear,” she said.

Whew. The worst was over.

I went back the following week to have the first of the skin cancers on my face taken care of, the red bump on my chin. Dr. Maffei explained that she would do Mohs surgery–remove one layer of skin at a time and examine the margins under a microscope for cancer cells.

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Your Comments (14)

Hi Marion,
Thanks for a great article. Makes me think of my Mom (92 yrs old), in a nursing home after a severe stroke over 18 yrs ago. She has now developed dementia (a blessing for her), difficult on me. I'm not sure if she knows who I am, but maybe she is aware of me even if she can't verbalize it. It is difficult to see her deteriorate physically. She was such a beautiful person, inside and out. She rarely wore makeup, always felt insecure about her appearance, but had the biggest heart and devoted her entire life to raising her siblings after her Mom died and then raising her own 5 children and helping with the grandchildren. Her love filled life dedicated to others makes me realize our outward appearance is only a superficial part of what makes us who we are. And as I watch her body and mind deteriorate, I realize we are each on a journey to our true home in heaven. Our lives here on earth are like a caterpillar stage. When we reach heaven, the essence of who we are will blossom like a butterfly into our true glory, free of all pain, overflowing with unending love for God and all of our family and friends.

I can't believe our lives are so similar! We too had twins who both have died, one just recently, from addictions. We also have two boys.
I too am in my seventies, 72, and look at my face with discouragement in the past> I too had Mohs surgery and they replace part of my nose with the "flap".
I don't worry about my face anymore. The grandkids keep me so appreciative of having them and my boys and my husband of 47 years!
It is nice you are in a good place. Life is good and enjoyable.

I meant to say, we too have twins, but ours have died from addiction.

Hi, Marion. Your story this morning is so appropriate for me. I'll be 61 next month. I've been told I was pretty all of my life and seeing what time and struggles have done to my face has been hard to adjust to. I too have come to realize that certain features come directly from my parents and grandparents so I try to appreciate them. My life is good and I try every day to focus on improving my spirit instead of my looks. Thanks for reminding me which is more important. Thank you for sharing your journey.

Hello Marion, I feel as if I know you, having read Daily Guideposts for years. I've followed your good times and some bad times with you and always closed the book feeling I knew you a little better each time. Never once did I think of your face as something wrong or missing. No, your face was the face of a friend. I was happy for you when you reached a "good place" that you had long prayed for. Last November my husband passed away and the 3 years of his illness and suffering had left a toll on my face. After reading about your revelation I took another look at myself and saw laugh lines that I had gotten from my husband's sense of humor, a loving expression whenever I thought about him, eyes glistening when remembering special times. There were some unhappy lines but I knew I had gotten them during the times of worry for him and times of stress while helping him. I never liked my looks, but now when I look in the mirror, I think, a good man loved that face......The face that God gave to me exclusively. How lucky I am!

Dear Marion,
You have a wonderful face and a wonderful heart!
I too always enjoy your stories.

I really enjoyed reading Marion's story about her face. I feel the same about mine! You want to look "just right" and NOT your age, but we are who we are, made by God in His Image, and that is good. In Heaven, I won't have the wrinkles, the sagging skin, or achy bones & muscles. All will be made new! Not sure how close in age we are, but I'm 72+ and each day to which I awaken, is another one of God's Gifts! Thank you Marion for this sweet article!

Thank you so much for this wonderful story!! I remember reading your article in Guideposts magazine years ago...about when you had lost your husband to brain cancer and I had just lost my baby girl of only a few days of life. About how God will restore your joy to the degree of how much you sorrowed. You helped me more than you can ever imagine!! And now reading this story of your face. I always wanted to be pretty and never was. And now I'm getting older and that hasn't helped me. But your stories really help me..you have no idea! I'm learning to appreciate what God has given me! God Bless You!!

Thank u so very much Love your story. Beautiful what God does. Thank u it has brighted my day.
Donna

Marion, I truly believe God sends you an angel on Earth to tell you what you need to hear at your most vulnerable moments. Today, on my 67th birthday, you are mine! Blessings...

Dear Marion
I love your face. And your stories.
Keep them coming!

Thank you Marion bond West for this story. I am 57, and have my share of lines and wrinkles, but never looked at that as reflecting my life! I see my daddy and and my mom in different things on my face, some features that my children have [especially my 3 girls !] and some good and bad times. Every line represents what made me who I am now! I have a LOT of laugh lines [I LOVE to laugh!!] and I laugh a lot now. Thanks for helping me not be so critical of my looks, especially my face. I am truly not perfect, but now I can see that I am perfect for Jesus, as he made me to age just like I am.. Awesome story!! God's Blessings to you, Aleina <3

Thank you for this wonderful story. I just lost a dear friend of mine who was such a beautiful person inside and out. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. God's blessings to you!

Hi Marion. I'd like to say that you are my favorite writer from Guideposts magazine. Through the years I've followed you by reading your family stories in the magazine . I remember when your first husband was still living. I know you love cats a dog's. I cried with you when your first husband got sick and later died. Then when you begin to go on without him.
I remember your article on your never the less philosophy. Then I followed you through your dating with your new boyfriend (by letters ) because you lived so far from one another. When you married and moved from your home to be with Gene. Then your rheumatoid arthritis . I've faithfully followed you and loved every article you wrote through the years, including this one. You are a valued friend. And I think you have a lovely face by the way. I hope that I will get to read many more article from you.
May God Bless you.