Tales from the Practice of Medicine: (Part X) Life

Dr. Li Defu

PureInsight | January 23, 2003

[PureInsight.org] The patient has since passed away, but his smile and the conversations we had always come back to me.

When he came to my clinic it was already too late to cure him. His cancer cells had taken over his body. The hospital estimated that he'd have two to four weeks to live, and they told him to go home. They told him that he should do whatever he pleased and settle matters that needed to be taken care of. Otherwise, he wouldn't have enough time to do it.

He lived for six months after coming to my clinic for treatment. This surprised his health insurance agency. During those six months, we had a lot of chances to chat. This is his story:

"After I retired from Boeing, I opened my own airplane taxi company. Our company sprang from one or two airplanes to forty-eight. We rent to both businesses and civilians throughout the world. I'd need a computer to calculate the wealth that I've accumulated. During these years my life has been exhausting. Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc., were spent on airplane rides. My family members couldn't see me even on their birthdays. They received big fat cheques instead. So when I became sick, my children treated it as if it was news about a neighbor or a coworker. Some felt sympathetic but they weren't moved. It was as if I was not related to them in any way.

Sometimes I admire the homeless people on the streets. They are so lucky to have a healthy body. They can live happily, free of sickness or pain.

I admire you and your occupation because it takes real wisdom to be a good doctor. You take the pain away from the patients. But my wealth ended up being nothing but a joke. It seemed that I was a clown who was having a good time on the stage but none of the audience enjoyed my performance. Nobody applauded or cheered me. I thought I'd brought happiness to my family, but they aren't happy. When they were young, my sons' birthday wish was to have me at home. They needed me, not my cheques. I thought little of them when I heard this. When my wife was sick, I was somewhere outside the country… now no one needs me, because with my money I've sent them to faraway places, and I can't find them anymore. When I needed them, they treated me the same way I treated them. They wrote me a cheque, but that's my money that I made with my own hands…"

And so he left behind, with loads of regrets, a crippled family and a story for others to contemplate.

People! Do not wait until the end of your lives to treasure it. Don't wait until you make a huge mistake before realizing that you need to change. Don't wait until it's too late to seek a cure. That's the end and too late to do anything.

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