Thursday, August 26, 2004

Beth Kavanagh

Beth Marie Kavanagh, my dental hygienist, died last weekend. Her obituary was in the newspaper today. She was 47.

When I moved to Boston in 1991, I hadn't been to the dentist in nearly three years. While brushing and flossing kept my teeth relatively OK, I sorely needed a dentist's cleaning.

Jenn said I should go to her dentist. They had an office two blocks from my Back Bay apartment. Beth would be my hygienist. It took her two visits to work through all the plaque that was on my teeth.

I have kept up my dentist visits since then (twice a year). My appointments were with Beth. She was a wonderful person to be with. I always felt like she was attentive, and interested in what I was up to. I considered her a terrific conversationalist. She has read this BLOG, and she regaled me with her views on cycling (she was an avid cyclist) and movies and books. In the obituary, it's reported that she was the same way with many others, and I'm not surprised.

The last time I saw her, in May, she was walking around with a cane. She explained that she had a condition that required a lot of physical therapy. A few weeks after that visit, I received a form letter from her on her office's letterhead. She was asking her patients to keep their scheduled appointments, and not to switch dates to when she would be able to work on us. According to the article, she died of chondrosarcoma, a form of cancer.

As a patient, lying on the dentist's chair, I would sometimes watch her eyes as they looked into my mouth. She worked carefully with her instruments. I could sometimes hear her stomach rumbling, depending on the time of day. When she smiled behind her mask, her eyes gave it away. She was consistently full of mirth, and she made each visit pleasant.

My next appointment with Beth would have been in the December. I will make my appointment, but I'm sad because my favorite hygienist will not.

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