Death is inevitable. It is the only thing you can count on in life—it will happen to me, it will happen to you, it will happen to everyone. The only thing we don’t know about death is when it will happen. The other night, this world lost yet another great physician. Last night I learned that my former boss, a talented acupuncturist, passed away on New Year’s eve after a two year battle with cancer. Knowing him was a pleasure and an honor. He was a great boss--fun and laid-back, interesting, brilliant and a very unique person. He was one of those geniuses that functions at a different level than everybody else. While that made him an exceptional healer, it also rendered him a difficult business owner. If it wasn’t for his incredibly competent and capable business partner and wife, the clinic would not have lasted very long. He was at times absent-minded and completely lacked an awareness of time. This caused many headaches and frustrations for his wife, his patients and the office manager (myself for a few years). Part of my job was to stay on top of him and constantly try to keep him on track—something that was pretty much futile. He meant well—we got him to set alarms on his watch, then on his iphone, but inevitably he would have patients or his kids waiting 30 minutes, 40 minutes.... His reasons for this were always due to his complete fascination for an ailing patient and what the key underlying factors could be. Like a compassionate Dr. House, he would ponder all the organs, all the factors at play and then write and rewrite herbal formulas. And, like Dr. House, he had his adolescent ways, a crass and at times inappropriate sense of humor. But behind the goofy, 6’5’’ bear, was a warm, caring, sensitive, intelligent and talented doctor. He loved to spend time with his patients, working on them, massaging them or just chatting with them. Just as Dr. House has his flaws, he is incredibly endearing and my boss was as well, plus he had a warm heart, was a big teddy bear and was someone fun to giggle with during down time.
There were some patients that couldn’t deal with his time management and off the cuff demeanor. But those who understood him and appreciated his genius were some of the most loyal patients I have ever seen. There was just something endearing and caring about him that came across in the most sincere way. He gave acupuncture treatments and massages so deeply relaxing that his patients would leave in an almost altered state of consciousness. He created herbal remedies and nutritional supplement plans that turned people’s lives around. He was truly gifted in his craft.
The clinic is primarily focused on reproductive support and infertility treatment, a focus that naturally grew out of his wife’s mastery and extreme success in the area. In the last few years, he focused more on that purely out of necessity to treat the overflow of her patients, but his real passion was for cancer support. He was fascinated at how well Chinese medicine complimented cancer therapy and he researched and wrote about the improvement of survival odds and the improvement of quality of life in conjunction with chemotherapy. He started working with a few clinics in Southern California to help ease the side effects like nausea, pain and fatigue with herbal formulas and acupuncture. He was also a fantastic and witty writer and wrote a blog on natural cancer support. He helped many patients ease their pain and discomfort, even to the very end. In a strange irony that I’m sure was not lost on him, he succumbed to the very thing that he was so fascinated by in his career.
My heart goes out to his wife and their two boys, as they are obviously devastated by their loss. And it has made me very reflective about losing my own father, another gifted and talented physician that was taken away by cancer way too early in life. For me, it has been almost 12 years now, and time does heal all wounds. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a hole in my life, a vacant spot that was once filled by a big bear of my own. There is a saying that the best ones go first, and if so, standing room only at my father’s funeral is a testament to that. But there is something aggravating and unfair about losing people skilled in health and healing; educated and trained in nutrition and wellbeing; practitioners of natural medicine that helped and healed so many; and succumbing, in the end, to the very thing they prevented in others. Life is full of irony, sometimes more tragic than others, but the end result is always the same—death. My father was gone barely four months after discovering cancer in his esophagus and my boss never thought that the strange bump on his thigh would have lead him down the path it did.
Death is the only constant in life. Steve Jobs, another great man we recently lost to cancer, told us this: “Live each day like it’s your last”. And I agree--do what you love, search out happiness and reach out to your loved ones often to tell them how much they mean to you and why you appreciate them because you never know how long you have to say it.