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Volume 1, Issue 4
Winter 2005:

Final E-mail

Brian T. Maurer

Cell 2 Soul. 2005 Winter; 1(4):a24

Fallen Leaves
Photographer: Barry Penchansky
[Larger Image]

Hi Terry,

I was checking my e-mail this morning, and, as I scrolled down the list, all your past messages suddenly appeared in chronological order. I hesitated to click on the last one (I had already read it a while back). Funny, but I didn't remember replying to that one, so I thought I'd write one last time.

It's a fine fall morning outside. Most of the leaves are down. It rained last night, which made for soggy leaves, but I had the day off, so I spent part of the morning raking and bagging. We're only allotted so much time for these things, which you of course know much better than I. So although the leaves were heavy, I raked the back and side yards (minus the flower beds), and bagged what I raked. The bags were much heavier than the first thirty which I took to the dump last week, but then those leaves were dry as a bone when I bagged them. These were wet and heavy, and had a good fall smell to them.

I've been sick with a head cold these past two weeks, which has turned into a sinus infection. Last night it felt like the left side of my face was going to crack and fall off. I couldn't breathe through my left nostril. Lying down produced spasms of cough; sleeping was difficult. In desperation I rummaged through my bag and found some antibiotics that I had packed for that trip to Cuba the other year. They say a doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient, but I popped one of those pills and a few ibuprofen tablets before bed. I know what you've gone through these past 19 months has been much worse. But it seems like when you're in pain, all you can think about is pain. (Even reading Sherlock Holmes stories didn't help.)

I was thinking about that party at John's place several summers ago when our swimming group got together for a cookout. We had had several glasses of wine when you brought up the Coriolis effect: how the water always swirls clockwise down the drain in the northern hemisphere. I don't remember who said that it took the opposite direction — counterclockwise — in the southern hemisphere; and then someone said no, it was the other way round. That's when we got out the food coloring and filled John's kitchen sink to verify which way was correct. Then someone suggested calling Mirae in Sydney to ask her to run a similar experiment. I think John stepped in at that point. I suppose it was a good thing. I still don't know how much a long-distance call to Australia costs during the day, but then I guess it's night down under when it's day here.

I had been meaning to call you, but as usual I got caught up in day to day affairs, and I must confess that I didn't know you were back in Dana Farber at that time. Fran told me later that, over the 19 months since you were diagnosed, you spent all but 4 months in the hospital. You certainly fought a valiant fight, better than most. You said you always wanted a medical education, and that this, in an odd way, fulfilled that dream.

Fran's e-mail was quite a shock; it was the only e-mail I ever got from her. I read your name in the subject line, and somehow I knew before I opened it up.

Maria and I and John went to the service at the small Congregational Church in Southwick that first November Friday morning. It was nice, although hardly anyone knew the melodies to the hymns. We struggled through somehow. The minister spoke about you. I never realized you were raised on a farm, or that your dad had taught you and your brother how to fly an airplane, or that one of your favorite sports was sailing. I've always liked sailing myself. We could've had such a damn good time together on the water if only you had had more time. Fran said you wanted so badly to live.

I saw your grandkids back at the house: so young, just starting out. The place was packed; I hardly knew anyone. I remember meeting your neighbor, the guy who collects and restores antique cars as a hobby. He talked to me at length about politics and the insurance industry and his brother, who happens to be a pediatric gastroenterologist at Boston Children's Hospital. He asked me if I always wore bow ties. Only on special occasions, I told him. I had something to eat, signed the guest book, said goodbye to Fran, and took my leave early. It was nice of Fran to have us over, but you weren't there; it just wasn't the same.

Well, I still have those e-mails saved as I said, all in chronological order. I pulled out some of my replies from the "Sent" folder, and put them in another folder with your name on it. Some day I'll get around to reading them again. Together they testify to the stuff of which a friendship is forged. Thanks for the gift of your thoughts. It's the best gift you could have given me.

All the best,


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