DEC. 2 – JEAN-DOMINIQUE BAUBY

Once upon a time, less than 20 years ago, there was a successful French journalist known familiarly as “Jean-Do”. He was in charge of ELLE magazine and was respected and well liked. He lived the French high life, with great pastry and wine and enjoyed his family and kids and maybe even a girlfriend or two, as I stereotypically imagine all those continental types do.

Then! In 1995, out of nowhere!! Without warning!! BAM!! Giant stroke. Jean-Do lay in a coma for not two days, not a week, but 20 days! Odds are, after that long, one does not ever wake up again. But he did. However, not all of him woke up. The only part that woke up fully was his brain and his left eyelid. The doctors quite politely call this “Locked-in syndrome.” Personally? I would call it Flesh Hell.

I have a friend who was in a coma and nearly died. He related that the waking up process is quite bizarre, because not all of your body wakes up at the same time. He remembers his legs did not wake up the same time as his arms, and his intestines slept the longest. Which made it very difficult to eat. It sounds very much as if different parts of your body enter different time zones or different dimensions; get lost; then have trouble finding their way home again.

But back to Jean-Do. He only ever got his brain and his left eyelid. That was it! C’est tout!!

Imagine! He could not do anything anymore. His only communication was the left eyelid. Fortunately he had an endlessly patient friend, Claude Mendibil. Claude figured out that Jean-Do could communicate by blink-spelling. One letter at a time. Claude would indicate letters and Jean-Do would blink when Claude hit the right letter he was spelling.

Hons, the dude wrote a whole book this way. Unbelievable! He composed it and edited it in his head (but then, what else was there to do, after all). Then he “dictated” it to Claude – one letter at a time! This book is “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” Apparently there is no question that he, and not Claude, is the author. Probably from writing style and Claude not having literary chops himself. Who knows. But Mssr. Bauby wrote this book one letter at a time. Can you imagine? Plus it was made into a movie.

Jean-Do died 2 days after the French publication of his book.

I imagine, with nothing else on his schedule, Jean-Do entered some kind of state of grace the likes of which you and I have probably never experienced, where he found a strange zen state of patience that enabled him to do this. People with all their bits “awake” as it were, spend buckets of money trying to find this state. Some travel remarkable distances to learn how to meditate with monks, without having to wear the orange sheets. And Jean-Do took himself there with an unexpected stroke. Wrote the book of his life and then died.

Was this book his destiny? Was there some agreement made on the “other side” before he was born that he would do this and if he didn’t, there’d be consequences?

Is it my destiny to ever have that radio show?……But I digress.

I would just hope that if this happened to me, Fenwick would be johnny-on-the-spot with the paper, pencil and a working knowledge of the alphabet. Unfortunately my manuscript would likely be full of horrible spelling and dangling participles. And the subject matter would be either fashion tips or public restroom etiquette.

Wherever Jean-Do is now, I hope he’s off whatever karmic hook that left him in such a state, having to perform such a task. Maybe skiing the Cosmic Alps, sipping cups of Bliss afterward, surrounded by a cloud of butterflies.

Comas – Not just a nap. What’s your destiny, hon?

IB Crabby

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Tell Mrs. Crabby all!