Angels Among Us

Rain in Australian Rainforest

I get very attached to people. People are the most important things in my life. And when special people leave my life, it creates a hole where something wonderful used to be.

Yesterday, I said goodbye to a man who took care of me for more than 30 years, a man who enriched my life in ways I can never come close to repaying. He knew every inch of my body on an intimate level; he delivered my babies, performed surgeries on me, and became my primary care physician as well. And my friend.

At first glance, this post might seem silly, but 30 years is a long time, and to have someone you can trust, someone who made you feel like you mattered—is a precious thing. Especially in a world where a lot of doctors treat their patients as if they’re just a number. Or worse—a nuisance they’re forced to deal with so that they can buy that new Ferrari. Yes, I’ve had doctors like that.

A few weeks ago, I received a letter notifying me that Dr. H. was moving to another city. He had been my OB/GYN when I lived in Denver and after I moved to Northern Colorado 18 years ago, I continued to drive two hours each way just to go to him. And I never regretted it.

But now an important chapter in my life was coming to an end. You see, Dr. H. was not your ordinary doctor; he helped me through some very tough times in my life—from births to deaths to cancer-scares and everything in between. I couldn’t let someone like that just slip away without letting him know how much he meant to me, so I phoned his office to make an appointment. “All his patients want to see him one more time,” the receptionist informed me. “There’s nothing available, but you can send him a letter.”

My heart sank down into my shoes, into the floor, and into the earth beneath the floor. No, I need to see him, I thought. I need to look into his eyes and thank him, in person, for everything he did for me. Even if I can’t get an appointment, I’m going down there just to say goodbye.

I explained my situation to the receptionist and she squeezed me in.

In the meantime, I decided that I wanted to give Dr. H. something to let him know how much he meant to me. Thirty years is a long time. How did you thank someone for giving you the gift of good health? My husband would say, “You pay him LOTS of money; you don’t need to give him anything—he already has everything money can buy.”

But there are some things money can’t buy—like making a person feel that they’re important—that they matter, easing another person’s fears and assuring them that everything is going to be alright. How do you thank someone for that? How do you thank someone for really caring?

I decided to write Dr. H. a letter telling him how his compassion, kindness and expertise effected my life. Maybe someday he would look back on it and realize what a huge difference he made in the world–and not just in my life, but in the lives of thousands of others.

Through my tears, I remembered how he took care of me during my pregnancies—the last one in which, when I waddled in for my weekly checkup, well past my due date, hugely pregnant and miserable, and complaining, “Dr. H., has anyone ever died from terminal pregnancy?” He laughed and said, “Not that I know of!” “Well, I think I’m going to be the first, then,” I moaned. A few hours later, I went into labor.

I told him how much it meant to me that whenever I was giving birth, and in that cold and unfamiliar place—the hospital delivery room—surrounded by all that sterile equipment and tiled walls and being poked and prodded and examined by doctors and nurses in masks, and salespeople and janitors (just kidding about the salespeople and janitors, but it sure felt that way at the time) the moment I saw his kind and familiar eyes, my entire being relaxed because I knew that now everything would be just fine.

Close up of baby's foot in mother's handI told him that I had pictures of him from 27 years ago in the delivery room suctioning out my newborn son’s nose and mouth because he had swallowed a lot of amniotic fluid during his entrance into the world, and I truly think it was Dr. H.’s knowledge and quick thinking that day, that saved my son from what could have been severe complications.

And when I went to see him for a follow-up after my hysterectomy, he chuckled as he told me that during the surgery, I “woke up” and reminded him not once or twice, but numerous times, “Don’t forget to leave my ovaries in, Dr. H.!”

When I went to see him the year after my parents died, I told him how much it meant to me to see his familiar face again—it felt like it had been ages after all I’d been through—but his compassion in listening to what I had to say was like a light in the darkness that day and it gave me something I so desperately needed—hope and the strength to carry on.

And when I was terrified upon finding lumps in my breasts, he made sure that I got the best care available with the best surgeons and facilities in Denver and he stood by me every step of the way to calm my fears and keep me healthy.

I wrote that in his care, I always knew that everything would be alright. And it always was. And that, right there, is something undeniably rare and priceless.

I put the letter into my purse and went for my appointment.

It was weird, because when I got there, the waiting room was empty; usually the chairs were filled with women in various stages of pregnancy or juggling newborns in car seats, or elderly ladies waiting to see their doctors. Not today. I proceeded to sign in but the receptionist told me not to bother.

A strange feeling erupted in the pit of my stomach; I felt like I was in a place I shouldn’t be.

There were wooden carts in the hallways and behind the great reception desk filled with rows and rows of manila file folders covered with sheets, each folder representing one woman’s medical history—a sad reminder that someone who had been there a very long time was getting ready to leave—someone who was obviously very well-loved because there were a lot of carts with a lot of folders. I had to squeeze past them to get to the examining room.

When Dr. H. came in, his face was tanned and his shirt impeccably pressed. His once-dark hair was dyed a light brown, and he was sporting a grey goatee, which seemed an attempt to hide the sagging skin on his neck, but his brown eyes were as soft and kind as usual. He asked if I’d gotten his letter announcing his move. I said that I had and I fought back tears as I handed him my letter.

After the exam, we talked for a few minutes and shared some memories. Once again, his warm and gentle demeanor reassured me that even though he was moving away, everything would be just fine, and that if I still wanted to come see him, I was more than welcome. He handed me his business card and said that if I was in the area, to let him know, and that “If there is ever anything you need, you just call, ok?” Then he hugged me. I don’t think there is another human being on this planet who could have gotten away with hugging me while I was dressed in a paper drape like that!

When he walked out of the room, I could hear him talking into his little voice recorder as he always did—saying my name and noting the results of my check-up. But things were no longer going to be as they’d always been; this would be the last time he would speak into his recorder about me.

I got dressed and walked out into the hallway. Dr. H. was waiting there for me and he gave me another hug. My heart felt like it was dissolving into liquid—tears. Then he went in to see his next patient.

This was not a physical or romantic-type of relationship I had with my doctor; it was personal on a different level–and based on respect and unwavering trust for a professional who continuously went above and beyond stipulated job duties to make me feel like I mattered. I am a better person for having known him.

He once told me about the time he accidentally killed a fish in a lake with a bright orange, Pinnacle golf ball when he was golfing and that someday he was going to buy himself a Harley. And last year, I gave him a copy of my book because he said he was interested in reading it… Thirty years is a long time…


My Father’s Spirit’s Christmas Gift

This is coming from my heart. Unedited.

Six years ago today, I was stepping into my car, getting ready to go to work, when the phone in the garage rang. It was my brother, telling me that paramedics were working on Dad and it didn’t look good.

But it was too late; they couldn’t save him.

My precious father left this world just days before Christmas in 2005. We were a close family. Mom joined him 51 days later.

To me, Christmastime is family time. A time to relish the blessings I have in the form of my loved ones. And every year, I go overboard in spoiling them. I figure, what good are material things if not for sharing with others? According to my husband, I spend too much money on my family and friends at Christmas. I bake too many cookies and make too much candy; I have too many decorations and too many corny Christmas CDs. It’s true. I do. I can’t help it. It’s not because I think giving material things or causing people’s waistlines to expand are the most important aspects of the holidays, it’s because I use these things to honor those I love. Because to me, it wouldn’t be Christmas without the cooking, baking, gifts, and decorations, but mostly, it wouldn’t be Christmas without my friends and family.

And because of this, coupled with the fact that we lost Dad right before Christmas, I miss my parents more than ever during the holidays.

So last night, before I sat down to meditate, I was thinking about how much I missed my dad and I wrote in my journal about how badly I wished I could see him again—hug him, smell him, look into his eyes. And as I meditated, drifting to that place of serenity in my mind, I “saw” a black tunnel about twelve inches in diameter. The opening was small and it grew wider on the opposite end, like a funnel with the small end facing me. The inside of it was swirling and there were wisps of white stuff floating in it like threads of cotton candy. And suddenly within the tunnel, like the image from an unseen projector, was my dad. He was much smaller than in human form and he was walking toward me, calling me by the pet name he used to call me when I was a little girl.

Was all this just my imagination? I wondered.

Still maintaining the controlled breathing I use during meditation—slow, rhythmic, even, measured—I opened my eyes. And then I saw it—the outline of something moving and transparent like liquid egg whites. I could see primarily just the edges of it near the dresser in my bedroom. It was the shape of a human, but I didn’t recognize it as anyone in particular. And it was about eight inches shorter than an average adult.

A tingling sensation went down the back of my head and down my spine. Tears flowed from my eyes. I knew then, that the sensations I was getting, were my body’s way of telling me that this apparition was the spirit of my dear father.

I said out loud, “Is that you, Daddy?” as tears ran down my face and my nose began to run.

There were no verbal or intuitive messages from the spirit, so once again, my mind told me, “You’re just imagining all this because you want so desperately for it to be so,” but at the same time, a part of me knew. My body knew; the chills I felt were not imagined.

I told my father that I loved him. I told him how much I missed him. And the spirit lingered for a long time, as if it was working very hard to make itself more recognizable to me, but it never quite accomplished that.

Before I knew it, I laid down on the bed and fell asleep. I never sleep soundly, but last night I did. I slept like a rock.

Perhaps this sort of thing happens to other people on a regular basis, but it has never happened to me before, which was why my mind kept telling me it was just my imagination. But I’ve heard it said that imagination is the bridge to the world of spirit. I also believe that at Christmastime, there is a kind of magic in the air even more so than at other times of the year. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve believed this. And what we believe is more powerful than any amount of scientific justification, is it not?

I believe this was the greatest Christmas gift I could ever have received—the gift of love from beyond what I see with my eyes—the gift of love, which never dies.

Wishing you and yours the blessings of love and joy in the coming year.

–Baja Rock Pat