Howard died on Friday.
Howard was the general surgeon I preferred sending my patients to because he took good care of them. He listened to what they said, he joked around with them, and he took them seriously. He also was famous for wearing tie-died scrubs. This type of care is unfortunately difficult to find from consultants.
Howard was also a friend. No, we didn't spend a whole lot of time outside of the office together, but he was one of the few consultants who had my cell number and who gave me his cell number. We used that number regularly to run things by each other.
We also shared trust; I was his doctor, and he was mine. Howard took out my gallbladder when it awoke me in the middle of the night. I took care of his cholesterol, blood pressure, and helped him through the grief from the death of his son.
His loss leaves a big hole. It leaves a hole in the physician community in this city, a hole in the care of my patients, and a hole in my own life. Howard, of course, would make some snide comment on my use of the word "hole" when referring to him. Maybe he just did.
To top off a well-lived life, his obituary in the paper was one of the best I've ever read.
AUGUSTA, Ga. - Once upon a time there lived a wise and wonderful man named Howard. He spent his days healing the sick, loving his family, and teaching those around him. He slayed dragons of disease, protected his castle well and rescued thousands of people in distress. At 58, after repeatedly punching cancer in the face, he became very tired and released his soul to gallivant around the galaxy. He leaves behind his beautiful queen, and three princesses. In his galactic exploration we hope that he finds Prince Daniel so that they may travel together always - only stopping to help those in need. A celebration of an Earthly life well lived will be held at his home on Monday March 2nd from 5pm to 9pm. A colorful dress code is requested as black was not his color. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the charity of your choosing. Life Lessons from Dr. Howard: 1) Never be afraid to cover yourself head-to-toe in tie-dyed clothes. 2) Always laugh at people's jokes. 3) You can never say "I love you" too much. 4) Travel, Travel, Travel. 5) When packing for vacation, all you NEED to pack is underwear and a toothbrush. 6) Medicine is about more than treating a disease- it's about healing a human. 7) Always do your best. Show up! ON TIME!! 8) All education is valuable. 9) Crossword puzzles should always be done in pen. 10) If you act like you know what you're doing, people will believe that you do. 11) Don't spend a lot of money on a fancy hotel room - you shouldn't be spending too much time there, you should be out seeing the world! 12) I'm never late - nothing ever starts until I get there. 13) Always turn off the light when you leave the room.
I hope my eulogy is half as good.
I don't have any tie-died clothes, but I do have a pseudo-Hawaiian shirt:
This shirt's for you, Howard.