Doctor Dad

A blog of a dad of 4 boys, who happens to be a doctor in the Third World.

Personal Touch

They installed those rectangular metal detectors at the entrances of the hospital I work in. They rolled out a memo that everyone should be subjected to the same bag check by the security personnel. There was no big security scare. Progress and safety, they said. No one should be afraid.

The old security guards were replaced by a younger set. Eager, excited, and ready to face the public.

It used to be that when I get to work at 6:30 in the morning, the old guard would greet a happy “good morning” and zip me right through. I would smile back a good morning. It was a comfortable routine that went on for years. No need to look in my bag because I brought the same bag everyday. No frisking for hidden weapons at the small of the back.

This routine was upset by the arrival of the new guards. They would ask that you open your bag. My books, papers, and shiny pen now exposed to the world. When one day, deep in thought, I passed through the doors, I was jolted by a shout from the guard to have my bag checked.

Sorry, I said. She had checked this same bag for the past several days. There was nothing new inside. Nothing passes that wasn’t seen, apparently.

There is no more eye contact between us – the new guard and me. When before I would look forward to the greeting, now there is a shuffling as I look down and unzip my bag. When they are more interested in looking through our personal things, the personal touch disappears.

Yesterday was different. As I looked down to open my bag, I heard the guard say, “Good Morning, doc!” I look up and see the old guard. I smile back, glad to see a familiar face doing a familiar gesture.

Personal touch trumps security every time.

 

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The Journey

“It wasn’t as bad as I thought,” my son said, as we were leaving the new school.

For weeks, we struggled with the choice. The safe school versus the new school. We heard the thoughts and opinions of family members, friends, and mentors. We appreciated the wisdom and insight that each viewpoint brought. Ultimately it was going to be my son’s choice, for better or worse.

“I thought the restrooms were going to be a mess. It wasn’t. I thought my classmates would be different. They weren’t. They were just like me. I am excited about studying here.”

So here we go. One step at a time, to a new place, facing new challenges.

What to Say (Eulogy)

He was a man who strove to love God first in all things. This love was manifested in his silent work, often without fuss or fanfare. He thought of his hands as God’s own – through them he brings healing in the world. He thought of himself always called to serve. His mission was to cure sometimes, to help often, and to comfort always. You would see him forget his well-being when there is suffering to be eased. Sometimes, he goes home tired and drained, seeking a quiet place to recharge. It is difficult to understand him when he appears spent and resigned.

He was not always the easiest person to live with. He had these spells of melancholy, as if forever disappointed with himself for failing and falling short. He appeared humbled and self-denying. He always tiptoed around other people’s lives, careful not to disturb, reluctant, ever the observant wallflower, always watching, always ready to offer the helping hand. Some describe him proactive. He found it easy to see what was needed, because he always looked for what would help others best and most. But he would never intrude. He would never impose. He found prayer in his work, purpose in the people he serves. He found meaning in helping, in healing lives. His daily work is a prayer, an offering to the God he loves.

He loved his wife best, and provided for her and her parents without complaint. He loved her unconditionally, and supported her in her dreams. He was always quietly proud of her accomplishments – her vision to protect lives through life insurance, and her drive to serve the school as a bridge bringing lives together onward. He was content seeing her bloom and flourish. He was most proud of her for raising four fine gentlemen.

He loved his sons next, always seeking to be a shining example of what it means to be a man for others.

He loved M**1 for his quiet determination. He saw in you much of himself. He worries about you when it appears that because much talent was given to you, much also is entitled to you. No, not entitlement, but expectation. He expected excellence because the world needs an example of excellence shared with others. To you he passes this beacon of light.

He loved M**2 for his inquisitive mind. In you, he remembered how it was to be curious. He was glad that you grew up like your mother, always asking questions, insistent on answers, always searching for what is true. Most important to your father, you always insisted on searching for what is right. It is this pureness of spirit that your father treasures most. It is this that he guarded whenever he appeared to be very stern with you. To you he passes his dreams, his ideals, and the certainty that you would make him proud.

He loved M**3 for his gentle soul. Of your brothers, you are the stable rock, the base, the solid foundation of peace. Your father sees in you the peace he desires for himself. From your quiet hugs, he derives much strength and love. He wishes that you would eat more, so that your inner strength may be matched with your outward appearance. To you he passes his desires, knowing that you would calmly carry on with much love.

He loved M**4 for the joy that bubbles from his heart. He knows you, of all your brothers, are the provider of happiness and love. Your father takes great pleasure in seeing you smile, and seeing how you make people laugh. Your dedication to climbing walls and conquering jungle gyms are remarkable. He wished you continue to pursue life with this vigor. Your passion is the salt of this family. You give flavor to our lives.

He wished his boys, not to follow in his footsteps as a doctor, but to be the best they can be at whatever vocation they choose. He believed that the effort spent on being the best would allow them to help others more. It is effort that he praised, not outcome. He taught that effort, supported by honest discernment, is what the world needs. It is expected that they would help all others more. Quiet and insistent, he tried to guide them into always choosing the good, and striving to avoid what could hurt others. He knew that he was sometimes tough and uncompromising. He made mistakes. He accepted these mistakes, acknowledged them, and shared his regret with his sons. In quiet moments, he pulled each boy aside and opened his heart.  How different he is with his sons!

So this is the story of his life. There is not much here that is spectacular or extraordinary. In fact it was a special life because it was so ordinary. He knew that his life was borrowed. He strove to give it meaning, so when it was time to return it, God would find it good. He knew his life was a gift. A gift given unasked and unadorned. A gift to be returned much better than how it was found.

In his last moments, his thoughts would certainly not have been of himself, but of the people he would leave behind. We knew his love – and he loved us so much – because we felt it in his gentle hands, his quiet words, and his encompassing heart. Consistent with how he lived his life, he wanted to leave as quietly as he came, without fuss or fanfare, surrounded by family and loved ones.

I know heaven awaits him eagerly, but knowing him and his reluctance, he would definitely need your prayers to push him along.

Thank you for being here today.

The Subtle Shift

The choice between good and bad is easy. Always choose the good.

What if both choices are good? Here, the process of discernment (as taught by Jesuit mentors) come into play. Distinguishing between our wants and desires requires careful discernment because God often works in mysterious ways.

It is only on hindsight do we see God working in our lives, subtle shifts that tell us God did not want us to just settle on our well-intentioned desires. He sometimes calls us, weeping and screaming, towards an action that does not seem to make sense, but is actually something that is enduring and more satisfying.

My inclination is to let my son stay in his present school. It is a place familiar to me, filled with people equipped with the knowledge and skills to change to world, forming leaders of men, and servants to all. The lessons he learned here vibrate with a frequency that resonates in our home. If he applies himself, he would most definitely excel here. The school and our home teach and practice one thing – Magis – to always do more for God’s glory.

This school is the easy choice, the safe choice, and the choice that makes sense.

Yet…

A voice speaks in my soul. My son wants more, and in a way, seeks it in a place unfamiliar to me – a secular school for exceptional and gifted children. Here, he would meet others as driven and hardworking as him. He would be challenged, and knowing him, would persist and grow and change. He will definitely cry, he will sometimes fail… but despite this I will always be there for him.

I have spoken with parents who have children in this school. I have spoken to children who go to this school. I have spoken with friends who have graduated from this school. I have spoken to my mentors to help in this discernment… and I find nothing that would cause fear or worry.

Is this the subtle shift? I am… unsure.

I am my child’s light, his guide and true north, they all seem to say. You’ve done an excellent job so far. Why should the future be any different?

So, with faith that God continues to guide and lead me and my family, I grapple with this choice.

The deadline is in a few days.

The Choice

My eldest son, entering junior high, is facing a dilemma.

Not just him. I am in the process of discernment too.

He belongs to Magis, a group of students pulled out of regular math classes, to be with other numberphiles. Within that group, he shines exceptionally bright, always at or near the top, always rising to the challenge. His advantage immediately obvious to his teachers – he persists when most others give up.

“Dad,” he says, “can I take the Pisay exam too?”

Pisay is the short name of a public school built for the exceptional few. Around 25,000 hopefuls take the exam each year, with the main campus accepting the top 240 students.

“It’s the best math and science school, isn’t it?” His words.

“Yes,” I say.

The results came out a few days ago. He got accepted.

His current school has strong core values of Christian living and excellence. It is a Jesuit school – forming servant leaders in Jesus’ footsteps. The challenge is that he finds the challenges not challenging enough.

Pisay is an excellent, academic-oriented school, full of similar children with my son’s drive. I am looking forward to seeing him bloom and flower here.

Discerning the correct path is awfully difficult.

Will we smother his bright light by keeping him in his current school? Will he carry on as a man for others in Pisay?

 

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