Friday, 19 April 2013

Godspeed, Good Healer

"To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die"
 ~ Thomas Campbell

Dr. Herbert Ambrose 
(10 July 1965 - 8 April 2013)

I bade farewell to one of my dearest friends last week.

Dr. Herbert was so much more to me than just the general physician we consulted when we were unwell. He was a credit to the medical profession and lived a life of service to others. He is the only doctor I know who actually returned patients' calls. And he'd call us the day after we saw him to see if we were actually better. I don't know how he manages it with his busy schedule and thousands of patients.

Despite the fact that his services were always in high demand (patients would drop by the clinic to inquire if he is around, and would leave if informed that it was a locum and not Dr. H), Dr. Herbert never rushed his patients. He took the time to listen to everyone's problems, concerns and fears and would offer explanations and advice to assuage those fears.

Regardless of the age and educational background of the patient, Dr. Herbert was never condescending. He treated everyone with equal respect and dignity. You could tell that he was not in the medical profession for the money, but out of a genuine desire to help and to heal.

He would provide treatment free of charge to patients who he knew could not afford it. Sometimes he would offer rides home to patients who didn't have a means of getting home from the clinic. I know from hearsay that he carries out many more service projects for various worthy causes, but he wasn't the man to talk about it. Dr. Herbert was all about getting things done because it was the right thing to do, not because it was the right thing to boast about.

Over the years, Dr. Herbert became a close friend, mentor and confidant to my housemate Jake and me. Dr. H has a little soundproof room in his clinic where he and his band would jam in the evenings, and Jake would sometimes be invited to play with them. Their genre of choice was classic rock.

Dr. H took a keen interest in my volunteer work and always provided a calming and encouraging balance to all the alarmists around me who were convinced that I would die or suffer grievous harm from rescuing stray animals, handling wildlife and getting exposed to tropical diseases in the rainforest. He was the one who correctly diagnosed my lymph node infection and helped me on my way to recovery. He was the one who cleaned and stitched up all my dogbite wounds each time I tried to separate battling dogs at the SPCA. He was the one who talked me through my anxiety problems and compassion fatigue after I refused other forms of professional help because I didn't want to admit that I had a problem. To Dr. Herbert, helping others was a source of fulfillment and joy. Aravind had only consulted Dr. H once or twice but already found him to be a very caring, sincere and competent doctor.

I found it difficult to come to terms with his passing in the days following his death. I kept asking, "Why? Why did God take Dr. Herbert? Why so soon?" Aravind decided that it would help me through my grief and continue the good work of Dr. Herbert to make a contribution to charity in his memory. And so I hope that these little acts of service would help take away some of my pain and honour the life of Dr. Herbert and the great man that he was and always will be.

Aravind and I made a trip to Big Bookshop to purchase these books for The Revolving Library, a group we are involved in, which has the objective of promoting literacy and the reading habit among underprivileged children by setting up revolving/rotating mini-libraries in welfare homes and children's shelters and conducting volunteer reading programmes.

I added small unobtrusive tags to identify these books as part of a Kindness Project in loving memory of Dr. Herbert, a man who loved children and supported all efforts to improve the quality of their lives.

I think the addition of the book on the Human Body is quite appropriate. It would be nice if one of the children grew up to be a doctor. But even if none of them did, it wouldn't matter, because Dr. H would have loved all of them for their unique personalities and capabilities anyway.

The next beneficiary was a young black dog who lived in the guardhouse of an apartment project together with the elderly security guard. The dog is still quite skittish and would only accept food from the guard. If the dog warms up to me, I will make arrangements to have him vaccinated, neutered and collared. I know Dr. Herbert would approve.

Here is a candid shot of Aravind handing over the food to the elderly guard.

I had a day off on Thursday, so I took the opportunity to go to the SPCA to bathe and tickwash the dogs, clean the Cattery and Kennels and check on the quarantine cats for eye and ear infections and other minor ailments that I could treat without the help of the vets. I am smiling in the photo not because I am no longer grieving for Dr. H, but because I am happy to be doing something I am passionate about and good at.

The final beneficiaries (for now) are the puppies of Goldie, a stray female dog who gave birth to 4 puppies (3 survived, 1 didn't) in my friend Derrick's auto workshop. Derrick and his wife Jennifer are already doing so much to help rescue, rehabilitate, neuter and rehome stray dogs and puppies, so I figure a little help is in order. We will chip in for Goldie's spaying and her puppies' vaccination in a few months. I think Dr. Herbert would approve, too.

We will miss Dr. Herbert's professionalism and aptitude for healing and helping. We will miss his ready smile and jovial personality. We will miss his warmth, sincerity, kindness and nobility of spirit. I have never known a better man.

In Aravind's words for Dr. Herbert, "Godspeed, Good Healer."