“The difference between appreciation and flattery? That is simple. One comes from the heart out, the other from the teeth out. One is unselfish; the other selfish. One is universally admired; the other universally condemned”.
When I was Chief of Staff in my hospital, we had an unusual run of bad luck with many of mostly older doctors dying for one reason or another. I remember going to funerals, memorials and wakes, listening to eulogies. They all were very touching. Some teary, some humorous, some just plain. Many from memory, some read from the piece of paper with or without slide pictures from celebrated past. All were describing, how good a person he or she was and how much they were going to be missed. At the door there was usually a memorial book, but one can only find names of visitors there. Another good opportunity was missed.
Then it dawned on me. How wonderful would it be for the honored person to hear all these nice things said about him before his death? I know, he is over there, listening to all these speeches from above , but, well, it’s still not the same. I know for myself, I would appreciate knowing ahead of time how much, if any, I am being appreciated.
My moment came, when I was preparing for retirement. Two farewell parties were organized for me; one by operating room staff, the second by my office. After discussion with Bonnie, I bought a red book with empty pages designed for handwritten notes. On the front cover there was a place for a picture and I inserted my picture from the end of surgical residency, right before start of my private practice. It was symbolic beginning and end of my medical career in this country. I left this red book at a quiet place close to the entrance and gently asked participants “to sign it”. I was planning for notes to be written on the right side and the left one was intended for the person’s picture, which I took at the party.
The response was stunning and overwhelming for me. All the pages were filled. But when I came home, I didn’t have the courage to look at what was written. I was waiting for a proper moment. After several weeks, one morning, when there wasn’t anybody in my house, in a quiet room, with Bentley at my side I started reading. It was an out of this life experience to me. There were good, usual notes and there were the very special ones. I’ve spent 30 years working in this medical community and there were a few people, who were with me all this time. They were writing of things, which happened a long time ago. They were writing of things I long have forgotten. They recollected situations I’ve never known existed. They reminded me of conversations held a long time ago and how our talks had influenced their lives. I have to admit, I had tears in my eyes.
This book is my treasure. Only person I share it with is my wife. I will read it in difficult times.