Monday, January 15, 2007

Yesterday, I learned that my friend, Mike, the star of the last post, had died. After two months of fighting, Mike's body realized this was a battle it could not win and joined his already departed spirit. When I heard yesterday, I felt numb and somewhat relieved. Today, I read the memoriam written by his father and did what any philsophical, distressed Western woman would do--cried, ate and cleaned.

As I read Dr. Franz's eulogy, I was overwhelmed with empathy for Mike's parents, brother and fiancee. At that moment, my heart ached for those Mike left behind and for all the things Mike would never do. Dr. Franz chose a lovely Neruda poem to close his eulogy which brought me both comfort and anguish. I could not believe that such a mighty presence had been extinguished, even though I have had two months to prepare. At the same time, I felt comfort in knowing that Mike lived everyday with passion and gusto--he missed little.

Quietly I sat, trying to absorb the enormity of losing Mike and I felt compelled to buy myself something sinful and delicious. Appalled that such a thought would enter my mind while mourning for Mike and his family, I had no choice but to walk to my favorite bakery. Somehow, in my grief, I had determined that I deserved to bend the rules a little and spend money on myself. I comtemplated getting a hot chocolate and large chocolate chip cookie but that felt too extravagent for this somber occasion. Instead, I decided on a small latte and a cherry almond muffin--a choice of only moderate sinfulness. In those moments, my latte and cherry almond muffin soothed my soul, or at least my aching tummy, tasting more wonderful with each bite. But, before I could finish my snacks, I was struck with another compulsion--the need to clean.

Leaving the last quarter of my delicious muffin behind, I began to clean with gusto, with abandon even. I live with four medical students and, in general, we keep our large, old apartment pretty clean. Never have I felt frightened to use the toilet, shower or kitchen counter, but, we are not so good at keeping the dust bunnies at bay. All of my energy went into vaccuuming and mopping the floors. This was not just the cursory vaccuum and mop, where I go around the furnture. Oh no, this involved moving couches, tables, chairs, desks and more. This involved looking under and behind things. Seeing all that dirt both disgusted and thrilled me. This was being totally fascinated and horrified by the sheer disgustingness that accrues while we go about our daily lives. We, who pride ourselves on our cleanliness, who look down on those who don't shower every day or so, or who wear the same clothes a couple days in a row, let dust clumps the size of small rodents build up behind our couches and under our cubbards. We are thrillingly disgusting! All I could do was marvel, and put a little more oomph behind the mop.

Two hours, millions of dust bunnies and an aching back later, I finish my cleaning frenzy. The house smells clean, like Murphy's Oil, and the floors shine. My job is done, but the grieving is only just beginning. Now it is about breathing in, breathing out, putting one foot in front of the other and living in this moment.

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