In case you're wondering: my husband gave me permission to write the following story! Here he is with his tattered and sagging sacoche. (side note: the bag has been on its last leg since 2004, and just keeps going and going and going!) Photo taken in 2010 in Caltagirone, Sicily.
: to rummage through something (a pocket, a drawer)
À l'hôpital d'Orange j'ai fouillé dans la sacoche de mon mari. At the hospital in Orange, I rummaged through my husband's bag.
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
Several weeks ago, after rushing Jean-Marc to the emergency room, I was asked by the night shift nurse to provide my husband's papiers d'assurance. Zut! I was afraid the nurse would ask for those!
They had to be in here somewhere.... I set Jean-Marc's sacoche on the counter, unbuckled the tattered leather flap and began searching for some papers—the kind my husband would have folded and stuck into his wallet... or maybe in a side pocket? After a few fruitless attempts at locating the insurance documents, I tapped on the glass divider window to alert the nurse.
"When you find them," the nurse persevered, "pass them to me here." As he spoke, he pointed to a little cutout in the glass wall, through which I could transfer the needed paperwork.
"Il n'y a pas le feu!" the infirmier assured me. No, there was no rush. An emergency room visit in France could last three hours or more! That ought to be enough time to go through the entire contents of Jean-Marc's sacoche, which was something between a briefcase and a men's purse. My husband has a mobile office inside that bag! and room for a bottle of wine or two, which he tucks inside whenever he visits his cavistes in Marseilles or Paris or Portland. Finding those papers inside Ali Baba's* bag was going to be an adventure!
Entering the salle d'attente, I noticed a handful of other accidental insomniacs. Like myself, they had found themselves here in the middle of the night because of an accident or illness of a loved one. The gray-haired woman, seated alone, looked distraught—though the young twenty-something women with the toddler running between them seemed bored. I took a seat next to the man with the dark mustache and beard, facing the pretty young women. I wondered whether they knew each other? To whom did the child belong? The brunette or the blond? Was the man the grandfather?
No time to play connect-the-dots, I needed to find those insurance papers! Still, I couldn't help wondering what sort of catastrophes had struck the others' loved ones? Perhaps, they were wondering the same about me?
Only a dislocated shoulder, I would assure them... if perchance they happened to ask. When they didn't, it was the least I could do to maintain a cheerful demeanor to reassure them. On second thought, perhaps I looked a little too happy as I sat there rifling through my husband's bag?
Perhaps they thought I was taking advantage of my husband's absence... to go searching through his private affairs? That's it, they think I am snooping!
After all, no sooner had I sat down in the waiting room than I began rifling through the manly sacoche. Obviously it was not my own. They knew it was my helpless husband's! In their eyes I might be nothing more than an insecure housewife taking a cheap shot at uncovering some sort of double-life of the man who had disappeared into the emergency room!
Just when I began to suspect—and even invent—a few more condemning thoughts coming from the others in the salle d'attente, my eyes fell on a little piece of paper inside my husband's bag. As I studied the scratchy handwriting the room around me disappeared completely. Gone were the paranoid imaginings, gone was the connect-the-dot curiosity. A bigger question began to form in my consciousness.
Just what was this? My heart thumped slowly as I pulled out the flimsy piece of paper, letting the bag fall aside.
I read and reread the handwritten notations which appeared on a cut-out piece of paper (wallet-sized) which seemed to be part of an official document; it read:
Je soussigné (here, my husband had written in his name, in all caps)... exprime par la présente mon choix de la crémation après mon décès. Je demande que mes cendres soient (here my husband had filled in the blank line to read "...que mes cendres soient) déversées dans la Méditerranée"... to which he specified "(Marseille)."
I (here, my husband had written in his name)... presently express my choice of cremation after my death. I ask that my ashes be (here my husband had filled in the blank line to read "... that my ashes be distributed in the Mediterranean sea"... to which Jean-Marc specified "Marseilles)."
A few fearful and mysterious moments passed before I regained awareness of where we were in the grand scheme of things: we were OK—especially HE was OK (only a displaced shoulder!), and this was just some sort of carrying card—a cremation card (did we even have these in the States?), dated September 2004, a card that I had not seen before, for whatever reason. But everything was all right. Any such events were in the far future... only, some of us had thoughtfully left instructions in the event of....
My poor dear husband, ever so responsible! Though I was surprised by the carrying card, I was not surprised by Jean-Marc's instructions. I might have guessed. I only wish I had the courage to write some instructions of my own, and to imagine as beautiful a resting place one day, far off, with him. Yes, the Mediterranean!
Post note: Aside from the sea, I had always imagined we'd be buried near to each other, something that may no longer be ecologically friendly or feasible? Though, I hate the thought of drifting away from my love!
Voilà -- difficult topic tackled! Is this too creepy or upsetting a subject to talk about? Would you be willing to write your burial (drifter?) instructions on a carrying-card? Have you? Do you know what your parents' wishes are? Your spouse's? Your significant other's? Are you too superstitious to talk about it?
le papier d'assurance = insurance paper
zut = darn!
la sacoche = satchel, bag
la salle d'attente = waiting room
Il n'y a pas le feu (Il n'y a pas le feu au lac !) = there's no rush! (literally "there's no fire on the lake")
un infirmier, une infirmière = nurse
un caviste = wine seller
Ali Baba (from the popular French expression une caverne d’Ali Baba, or "vast collection of things")
Chris visited us a few years ago and I meant to post her photo... getting to that now! Next time we'll get a close-up! Left to right: Jean-Marc, Chris's cousins Elizabeth, Heather, and David, Chris's hubby Fred, Kristin, Christine (that's Chris!), and daughter Laura
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety