"I’m like a horse that smells the barn,” was the response I got to the quizzical stare I directed at my new running partner. He had just done a reasonable Usain Bolt impression after struggling for most of our lunch-time run.
I met my mentor over 20 years ago while doing a locum for one of his partners. He caught me heading out the door in my running shoes one lunchtime and signed me up for the next day. Little did I know that this would be the start of a long and beautiful relationship where generally we would run together at lunch at least once a week.
An older and established family physician in my community, he was an invaluable resource as I started to build my practice. He had come to Langley to build a life and foster a practice full of families that he would care for from birth to grave. He delivered babies, worked in emergency, saw his patients in hospital, and provided innumerable hours of on-call service. He cared deeply for the community that he worked and lived in.
I could always bounce a difficult case, patient, or family off him while the miles passed, and he would always answer with intelligence, patience, and kindness. I admit I almost punched him on a few occasions when the usual, “Well, what do you think?” response would float my way. He would listen carefully, add a few measured words or questions, and help me to arrive at what I already knew but needed to rephrase with his guidance. He had a gift for leading me to decisions based on compassion and goodness.
Now, don’t get me wrong, my mentor isn’t perfect. Some of his misguided political leanings led to many frustrating arguments despite the obvious truth about how wrong and stupid he was. He has never figured out how to get his shoelaces to stay tied and his choice of running attire is unique (i.e., yellow shorts over top of purple tights with a green shirt, blue hat, and pink glasses strap). Lastly, who doesn’t wear a watch?
Not only was he a mentor on medical matters but also in life. As our footfalls passed through the years he saw me through many of life’s troubles and tribulations. His wise words and support eased the pain of family illness, relationship issues, work conflicts, children concerns, and more. I have safely trusted him with many intimate details, and despite getting to know my many flaws he hasn’t had me committed.
He is also an avid birder and taught me a new appreciation for what nature has to offer, even during a lunchtime run. He kept on teaching me about birds despite my responses to most of his dissertations: “Do they taste good?” or “How many would I have to collect to make a reasonable-sized meal?”
I am sharing this with you because my mentor has retired. I haven’t identified him by name as he would be embarrassed to be singled out for any recognition. This is a man who waited a whole year to retire as he felt obligated to try to find his long-time patients a family physician to take them on (an impossible task). Our community will deeply miss his commitment, dedication, and unflagging caring. His retirement seemed to arrive so suddenly.
Most of us only really begin to appreciate the value of something as it comes to an end. I encourage each of you who are lucky enough to have such a mentor to relish the moments you spend together, as life moves so quickly.
I will miss him more than words can say. Happy retirement, buddy.
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