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Life As a B-Movie

Editorial Notebook

By Melissa ROSE Langsam

The rock group Blue Oyster Cult admonishes listeners: "don't fear the reaper." It's a pretty refrain but certainly easier said than done. This comes from someone who recently rehearsed her own funeral.

I kid you not. On a recent Monday morning, I rose at 6:30 a.m. to make it in time for my 7:30 a.m. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Most people probably don't know exactly what MRI is, and that's good, for such ignorance indicates good health. To explain the MRI, though: it is an ultra-sensitive x-ray used to check for brain and nervous system disorders, musculoskeletal problems and cancer. I had the opportunity to encounter the MRI because of an ongoing problem with my arms that seems to be connected to the nervous system. But enough background.

The technician running the machine had me strip down to the basics and slip on a blue hospital gown. No jewelry was allowed. My mind wandered to the thought of traditional Jewish burial garb, namely a simple white gown known as the kitel. All Jews leave earth as they arrived, that is, simple and unadorned.

She directed me as to how to position myself on the "bed" part of the machine. Feeling uncomfortable was only the beginning. My neck and shoulders were somehow not aligned quite right on the machine. It took more squirming before I found a tolerable position. Comfort was important since I was not allowed to move during the several-minute-long pictures, of which there were four. One seemed like more than enough.

But luck was on my side! The technician observed that my head was small enough for headphones, so that I could listen to music during the half-hour in question. My choices were less than exciting: old Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey, jazz--loosely defined as Michael Bolton or someone else I'd never heard of--or Boyz II Men. The lack of relaxing music, like something from the Beatles or the Grateful Dead, was disturbing. I was nervous. Boyz II Men it was, though I couldn't stop thinking about the inane concept of Michael Bolton as a jazz musician.

Finally, the process began. I was moved up and into a claustrophobic cavern. It seemed white on the inside, but it was so dark that it was hard to tell. I was surrounded by a closed dome that was only an inch or two above my face. I began to wonder if my coffin would be similar. What would the traditional Jewish casket of plain pine look like from the inside?

Sliding into this cave on my back was terrifying, but my fear subsided as I lay there waiting for the first picture to start, unsure of what would happen. There was no need to worry. When the MRI starts, there is no doubt that it's happening. The first, third, and fourth pictures might as well have been taken at a construction site. Boyz II Men competed with the machine, which sounded like a jack hammer. It wasn't ideal, but the second picture was undoubtedly my least favorite. The machine rocked me as if I were reclining atop ocean waves. The waves of magnetism forcefully rode up my spine and made me ill. At that point, I closed my eyes and kept them closed for the rest of the procedure.

Finishing was the best part. Rather than remain in my grave of sorts, I got dressed and went to job interviews. This burial was, happily, only a run-through. I sincerely hope that when my Time does come, I end up in a place in which music is not so insulted that Michael Bolton muzak is considered jazz.

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