A client called, asked a few questions, & then said: And I heard Michael suddenly died...
And? That doesn't go on the end of and. There is only Michael died. Michael was my employer twice & my friend always.
As I wrote in his guestbook:
Michael was a man of intriguing alternate perspectives; no facets were left unexplored as his mental & verbal gymnastics let the swirl of uniformity pass him right by. He was fascinatingly brilliant & deliciously unpredictable. Michael had a keen sensitivity & vulnerability that always allowed his essential goodness to shine through.
I was young & stubborn when I began working for Michael & he kindly tolerated my intolerance. He was able to deftly correct my ignorance while still preserving my dignity. That sort of gracious & intelligent patience is in very short supply in this world.
I am profoundly sorry for your loss.
With great affection.
I meant all of that x3, especially the : With great affection. But that was only .01% of the man Michael was.
His analysis of the possibilities in any situation, full of subtext & flavor, was always thorough & often hysterical.
He was a meticulous surgeon who was not a hammer looking for a nail.
When I weepily complained to him about a much loved ceramic doll(a gift from my deceased mom)that my dog knocked over & broke in a few pieces, he said: Bring her in & I will put her back together. And that he did, with me assisting, in his minor surgery room.
My second, more urgent, weep was my dad being set as second case of the day for open heart surgery. He worked it out so dad was first case(no small feat). Just like that. Because when he did favors for you, large or small, no emotional or other payment was due, ever.
The second time in his employ, I was his manager. Once he called me the plantation overseer, but I digress. One day we were running behind(which was his MO); I got frustrated & told him he had to stop the senseless chitchat & stick to the eye exams.
Michael looked at me very patiently. (It was a long time ago, so I may be paraphrasing a bit, unintentionally). He said: Many patients, especially if they have a complaint, come in to an exam very nervous. They forget most of the details of their complaint while they are waiting in the exam room. Putting a patient at ease with talk of their grandchildren or their latest vacation plans allows them to feel comfortable enough to remember the details that lead to better diagnosis & treatment of their problem. And it is not just good medicine, I like to engage my patients in conversation.
Michael never cultivated a presence; it was just there. He never played the star because real stars never have to. Michael was a little Hunter S. Thompson, a little bit Jesus(the aesthetics of), & a whole lot original.
What he wasn't, was a rarefied-air baby. After him I've worked with a few doctors who'd whine & kick about having to return too many phone calls, or heaven forbid, if I had to squeeze extra patients into an already tight schedule. Scary monsters. Michael uncomplainingly took the phone calls, saw the extra patients, made it right as only the doctor can. Although there was sometimes a polite request for a Windmill hot dog(gladly fulfilled ;-) if we'd be running very late due to additions. But never any bitching, because Michael felt his employees worked for & with him, but not instead of him.
In February 2006 when Michael had long ceased being my employer but remained my friend he valiantly tried to get me out of both my house & my inner terror. Had I listened, or been capable of listening at the time, I may have had a proper diagnosis & better treatment, years earlier. Afterward he never said: I tried to tell you.....
I have Michael's gifts from Hong Kong & Morocco...& my favorite Buddha that just appeared on my desk one day, but his greatest gift, to each & every patient, was his over 40 years of diminishing & alleviating pain & suffering, while still finding the time & having the generous curiosity to ask about your latest vacation & your newest grandchild.