Start your Bucket List now

A friendly man comes to class this week. I have met the man before. Jovial, warm and gentlemanly, he sports a shiny newly bald head and we joke about our similar hairstyles. On the second day the man comes to me. ‘YOu know, I was a BIG professor in my country Fischer. I left when I was 54 so my family would have a better life than in Cuba.” 

The man does not complain about the effort of re-learning all of medical school in his 50’s. He does not feel embarrassed to be with student 30 years younger than him. He makes no excuses for having a hard time absorbing all the new information. He does not get defensive or argue points of management in class with me to show everyone in class that he knows something, and ‘is somebody’ as often happens.

He just seems happy.

“I have tongue cancer Fischer. I have metastases to my lung. I got chemotherapy three days ago. But, you know, I want to pass my boards so that my three children who are all doctors will see that their father went all the way. Youknow that movie ‘The Bucket list”? the list of things to do before you die?

‘You are on my bucket list Fischer”

“I am 64 years old now, but the greatest pleasure I have in medicine is the week I sit in class with you. I just have fun. I was a teacher, but just to keep people awake for 8 hours straight is a big accomplishment. I am happy when I am here with you. I just wanted you to know”

This is the most jarring thing I have heard for a while.  THe man says ‘I feel good, I might die this year, I might die next year, but I wanted to spend this week here in class with you”

I think about how people see me. I think about the constant quest for ‘Meaning’ in ordinary things. ANd I think, I will put spending a week with the warm, gentlemanly, Cubano on my bucket list.


One Response to “Start your Bucket List now”

  1. faisal rafiq Says:

    Unrecognized till 2 days ago…
    I am writing you Dr.Fischer to inform you that your teaching and dedication are never unnoticed. When we are in your classroom “it is magical” and the information transforms itself into meanings and stories we share with others. If you fail to realize this it is these teachings we take home which are making us realize how much we know and how much we still need to achieve.
    I am an attending psychiatrist at a state hospital in Albany, and on a limited license struggling to pass STEP 3. I took these courses before but never realized what the truly are geared towards. Being now a young attending for the past year I see how vital this information has become to my own patient’s care. If I cannot properly help them with good basic primary health needs, who will? So knowing my stuff has takin’ on new meaning for me…instead of measly board preparation.
    You truly do inspire and you really have a passion to motivate. Keep it up!
    PS> The title has some meaning because I’ve been in your class before but you never asked my name before. LOL…
    Your Student forever, Faisal Rafiq MD.

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