Look Back on My Surgical Career

Does it ever happen to you, that after a conversation or event is over, an untimely thought comes to mind?  Something you should say or do, and you didn’t think of it at a proper time?  Then suddenly you do, and now obviously it’s too late. Or somebody said a hurtful thing, and you didn’t have a proper, witty or clever response. When it comes to you, in an hour or a day, it’s too late, and the magic moment is gone. There is no other time.

A week ago, I was invited to the hospital, where I spent all my years of private surgical practice. There was a Doctor’s Appreciation Day and I, together with a few others, was given an Honorary Staff Membership after my retirement.

There was an anticipated, emotional time seeing and speaking with the people I have spent a long time working with. We reminisced about events, some uplifting, some not so much, in our long professional and social lives. For me, it was a memorable moment, and I brought my son with me to have someone close to my heart to share the event with. This was probably the last time I was seeing that group of people –  I have moved to the other coast after my retirement. It was a symbolic closing of parentheses, the opening of which was 30 years ago.

After a few introductory speeches and announcements, there was a brief presentation of Honorary Retirees and each of us had a chance to speak.

Speaking in front of a group of people was always a challenge for me. It was difficult in Poland and even more here, where the language was not my own. It was becoming easier with more experience and gray hair I was getting every year. Also it was always helpful to have something meaningful to say.  However speaking during a dinner event is tricky. One has to keep the audience engaged despite them having a good dish in front and close friends with so many things to talk over on both sides.

People usually thank their friends and families for support in long, sometimes difficult times, reminisce good moments, tell jokes. Some point to their heritage and role models.  Some describe a long way they have come, from 15 dollars in their pocket to a house and a Porsche now. It was a time of saying thanks.

I chose to say a few words about my way to retirement. Really few.

“People often ask me, what do I do in my retirement” I said. “The reality is, that I did all these things I wanted to do while I was still working and didn’t have time.  Just slower and without the deadlines”.

Started planning in a second year of my work, when I was eligible to open a retirement financial account. “However, happiness in the retirement doesn’t depend solely on how much money do you have” I said. “More important is how healthy you are and what is your social support”.  All those factors should and can be controlled to the certain point. And probably the most important element is to be on the same page with your wife. Spiritual and financial union can add so much and divergence can ruin mercilessly the third trimester of one’s life.

I finished and sat down. My impression was, that the speech was warmly received.

When home, I realized that I didn’t mention one important thing. I didn’t say anything about an appreciation of one’s achievements. In our busy professional lives, we often concentrate on our own problems and notice the other people’s action only when they harm us. So the golden moment was gone and there was no time to say it.

I got a lifeline however and here in my blog there is my chance to correct it.

There is a way how the speech should have ended.

And one more thing before I will end.

During my tenure as your Chief of Staff, somehow we had quite few opportunities to say goodbyes to our colleagues, who died. Not all of them were old, some of them younger and in their prime. I remember multiple memorial ceremonies and how particular people were eulogized. I remember how many good memories were shared, how many touching, sometimes funny events were brought up. We are in a serving business and therefore always touch other people’s lives. Most of the time for good, sometimes for bad. I am finding now about the ways I touched other people’s lives, and I didn’t know about it. The same is with my children. They told me about things which happened in the past and I said “Did I said that?” or “Did I really do it?”.We quite often are not aware how much do we affect lives of others.

 And then I realized how nice and uplifting it would be to know of all these nice things while we are still alive. We could savor  them and be able to experience these feelings with our loved ones, rather than them listening to eulogies without us being around. Look at you, you are all superb doctors and good people. Don’t wait to tell somebody how good a person he or she is. Or even better, do it in front of their loved ones. Make them happy now when they can still be aware of your prize. We all live for respect and appreciation of our peers.

This is the last time I am addressing you and want to finish stating that, excluding catastrophes, if one planned the first two right, the third trimester of our lives should be a happy journey.

And the last point. Your golden years are not really so until you have a golden retriever.

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