Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayst prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.~3 John 1:2
The morning started off as most workdays had for the past 40 years. I had risen early, done my personal grooming, and grabbed a cup of coffee and a piece of toast. I headed to the office of the medical group I had called home for the entire duration of my practice.
But when I arrived at work that day, I saw some of my colleagues in the parking lot looking distraught and a sign on the office door. The sign read that the medical group had been disbanded; we were to retrieve our personal possessions and leave the premises. No explanations, no counselling. Just like that.
Because I was already 75 years old, I decided to retire from medical practice. It turned out to be the most difficult transition of my life. My family and friends encouraged me to pursue my various other interests-music, writing-but I was finding it a challenge just to get through each day.
I felt lost, missing the camaraderie of the office and the daily interactions with patients. In a clinical setting it is easy to see the results of a conscientious medical practice. But, retired and away from a physician’s daily responsibilities-what now, I wondered? I loved my career in medicine, but would I leave a lasting legacy? Or is it true that “nothing lasts forever?”
Such was my frame of mind as I sorted through the mail at home one day. Among the usual bills and advertisements I noticed a cheerful red envelope with a handwritten address. The envelope contained a letter from a patient I had treated in the distant past.
This dear woman, now healthy and happy and in her eighties, had written a letter of gratitude. She thanked me for diagnosing and treating a hormonal imbalance that had threatened her marriage, her relationship with her children, and even her life. All three, she said, had been saved when the physical problem was addressed. She thanked the Lord for her restored health.
Though I had treated my patient’s temporary physical ailment, the mental, emotional, and spiritual effects continue to bless her life. And through her letter I too, experienced the continued blessing of another’s wellness.
My patient’s letter reminded me that though earthly situations are temporary, human souls exist for eternity. The Lord has called us to be healers of the whole person. Each decision we make in the course of our careers can help bring others closer to Christ. Though our earthly medical practice must one day come to an end, we know that with the Lord’s help, spiritual healing can and should accompany physical wellness-this is our legacy as Christian physicians.
-Edward Dunn, CME class of 1961, is a retired family practitioner/dermatologist residing in Whittier, California.