We held Granddad’s funeral on Saturday, a sunny, cloudless day. Following his written instructions, he was cremated in the Philippines and his ashes were flown here to Accordion City to be interred beside the ashes of my grandmother. Although neither of them ever resided in Canada, this is their children’s chosen home, and it is the home — and in some cases, the birthplace — of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Their final resting place may be far from where they lived, practically on the other side of the world, but it’s close to family.
Since I am the family’s designated public speaker — I’m always called upon for readings at church, MCing events, saying free-form Grace before big dinners and improvising toasts — I was assigned the first reading and responsorial psalm (ask a Catholic friend if these terms are unfamiliar). However, I thought that I’d do a little something extra that I’d never tried before.
“Uh, Mom,” I asked, “would you like it if I played Amazing Grace?”
“You have your accordion?”
“In the car.”
“That’s very nice, son. We’ll start with that.”
The other surprise came from Granddad himself. While sorting out his belongings and getting his affairs in order, we found his diaries. Written in English and in clear, beautiful longhand (as opposed to the chicken-scratch one expects from a doctor), they show his talent for writing as well as his thoughts, plans and hopes.
At the funeral, Mom read a couple of entries. One is a personal decalogue written in 1935. The other is a letter to himself, a personal manifesto written in 1938, near the start of his medical career. With her blessing, I’ve published the entries below.
I like to think that Granddad has transcended time, space and even the grave and made his first blog entry. Welcome to the blogosphere, Granddad.
- Faith in God
- Faith in Yourself
- Consistency and Singleness of Purpose
- Hard Work and Perseverance
- Lend your troubles to no one
- Don’t you holler until you are hurt and then don’t do any hollering, but just hang on till you win
- There is plenty of crowd below but there is plenty of space above
- Optimism breeds hope and then success
- You should live while you work
- Success is at hand to one who seeks it
Letter to Myself (1938)
You are a physician whose thoughts are constantly focused on reaching the pinnacle of success. Never for a moment have you discarded this ideal. All your thoughts are concentrated on one thing: to attain success in your profession and be of the most benefit to mankind.
I am writing this to you as a sort of a counselor. My intentions are only for the realization of you goal. Your task is a hard one and needs a lot of hard work, patience and sacrifices. The pointers you will soon know are infallible guides in the attainment of success.
First of all, you have to consider humanity itself which is a mass of frailties, weaknesses, gratitude and ingratitude, virtues and sins — in fact every imaginable quality, both bad and good.
Your mission as a physician is to alleviate human suffering. It is your primary mission. The anguish and anxiety of families over the life of their loved ones is more than sufficient calling which should be attended to. Irrespective of any considerations, you should respond to their call. Give the unfortunate ones food and consolation for their languishing souls. Never for just one time aggravate their suffering by not so responding.
You as a human being are apt to be calloused to the frantic calls of unfortunate souls who could not materially reward you. They are in the first place, the unfortunate sons of Destiny. Denying them you most valued help embitters their already embittered life. You who could assist them with no trouble at all on your part, could do something to ameliorate their lot. Such aid as you might extend will merit undoubtedly Divine blessings. Real service is altruistic and unselfish.
Pecuniary demands from you as a physician will tempt you to consider your calling as a business. Never be so — your calling is not a business — yours is one of service to humanity — rendering service to suffering humanity will give you what you need. It will reward you much more than making of your calling a business concern.
You will encounter difficulties, obstacles, disappointments; pay no heed to them. Go to your calling, undaunted and unafraid. Every obstacle will surely melt away your firm determination — every stubborn resistance will give way to your courage. You can only reach your goal by actually working towards it. Scoff at everything that hinders your journey. Go forward, onward until you reach your goal.
At times you will feel exhausted and tired under the stress and strain of your calling. Go take a rest for a while, and resume your work after you feel refreshed and strengthened. Every little upset you may encounter may you now and then. You only have to remember that they will all pass by themselves.
As you grow older and make a little name for yourself, there will come to you a feeling self importance. You should forget your own self and feel the false vastness of your greatness. If you fall to this temptation you find your own light put out by the folly of your mistake. Your only importance, if you think you are, lies only in your own unselfish service to humanity. You only become important and great when you, as a physician could bring hope and alleviation to a suffering soul. You may not be able to bring a restoration to a physical ill — but you
could at least allay a suffering spirit by ministering to it. If at all, you should feel important — do feel so when you give service to ailing humanity.
Consider always yourself in the patient’s place. If you were suffering great pains which keep you restless — and yet you have no money with which to pay a doctor and then you had a doctor called to minister to you — just imagine the great contrast between the selfish and unselfish ministration that he may extend to you. In case of any doubt, just place yourself in the patient’s place.