A Physician’s Funeral

Last week I attended a funeral service in another town for a physician, who died of cancer a few months after suffering a devastating stroke. He was clearly a good doctor, who saved many lives during his career, but the one thing his funeral service illustrated for me was that this doctor was an easy-going, kind and gentle man with a big heart.

He worked in the same town for twenty-five years, raised a family, went to church, sang karaoke and played a lot of golf. Friends, family and coworkers spoke at his funeral service, and their stories painted a picture that made me think about Dr. Samuel Baumgarten, who had tried to get my friend Barbara Brennan to slow down. Sam’s thoughtful, kind advice to patients and colleagues lives on, perhaps more than his medical and surgical triumphs.

As I reflect on my own calling as a physician and role as a member of my community, I am aware that there are times when I am so busy that I limit my engagement with other human beings to those contacts that go along with my job. I know there have been times when, after a long day of offering emotional support to patients, I offer less of the same thing to my wife and grown children, somehow thinking that they need less of that than my patients do.

Not usually one to make New Year’s resolutions, I resolved after the funeral that I need to be more present as a neighbor, parent, husband, son and community member. Being a good doctor is a fine thing, and I will always strive to be the best physician I can be, but first, I am a man. Doctors come and go, especially in this day and age, but my friends and family only have one me. 

This year I will take my life as seriously as I take my work.

3 Responses to “A Physician’s Funeral”

  1. 1 drtombibey January 19, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    I believe in working hard, and being as good to people as I know how to be, but I also believe in enough time off. I have been a pall bearer at a few Doc funerals, and I never come away with a vow to work harder.

    God rest his soul. He sounds like he was a good one.

    Dr. B

  2. 2 Steph January 20, 2009 at 9:22 am

    I think funerals act as a good wake-up call for most people. They are a useful reminder of just how precious life really is.

    Enjoy being A Country Man!

  3. 3 Cathy January 22, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    When it’s all said and done it is family we should be the kindest and most compassionate with. I have heard to many people (a lot of them doctors) who have said, after the fact. ” I should have been there for my kids and my wife more.”

    I also feel bad for today’s young people with young families. With the economy the way it is many are working 2 and 3 jobs to pay bills, buy food and make a house payment. Not because of some need to get ahead but because it’s what they have to do. I have a son working more than 100 hours a week right now. He is a national sales mgr. and he is on the road, away from home, about 26 days every month. It is wearing thin as he realizes that 26 days of every month he is unavailable to his family.

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Osler said “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis”. Duvefelt says “Listen to your patient, he is telling you what kind of doctor he needs you to be”.



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