We had two French teachers at my college: the one I had, who scared the shit out of us and made us recite medieval poetry; and the one I wanted, who was warm and encouraging and didn't give you the feeling she was going to slap your hand with a ruler if you mispronounced cueillez. So once again my college alumni magazine dropped into the mailbox and I gave it the usual cursory flip-through, and then I got to the section where they do the deaths. There are always a few hold-outs, the Ednas and Berthas from the class of '25, and there are always a few shocks, people who graduated just a few years ago who died under mysterious circumstances. Hell, everybody died under mysterious circumstances, the alumni magazine obituaries are so maddeningly polite they never tell you how anyone went. I don't need details, I just want to know "cancer," "boating accident," "flesh-eating bacteria." It interests me.
And then I saw the in memoriam column for Alix and Pierre Deguise. In a stunning reversal of standard obituary policy, this one was filled with confusing details about the last hours of the wonderful French teacher I never had and her husband.
Alix Deguise, 79, had been taken to Lawrence & Memorial Hospital with a blood clot in her lungs. Pierre Deguise, 89, who accompanied her there, slipped and fell in the emergency room, breaking his hip. The two were placed in side-by-side beds, and Pierre Deguise, too, developed a blood clot in his lungs.
As the couple slipped in and out of consciousness, hospital staff made a plaster cast of their entwined hands. Pierre Deguise passed away in the darkest hour of the night, and a few hours later, Alix Deguise joined him.
Never mind the fact that the first time I read that I thought the hospital staff had built a cast around their entwined hands so that their hands were encased in some awful plaster lump hanging uncomfortably between their beds (on a second read-through I'm willing to accept that the staff just made some sort of "art" impression of their hands), and never mind that "darkest hour of the night" business. I don't have a whole lot of belief in "soul mates," mainly because I've met my soul mate a couple of times and three weeks later I realized he was just another alcoholic who's good in bed -- ahem -- but couples who develop the same sudden illness and die within hours of each other? That squeezes a drop of saline even from my withered heart.