The love you take,
Is equal to the love you make…
–“The End,” The Beatles, Abbey Road
Over the last three weeks, we’ve lost three patients in our practice family due to illness. By any measure, that’s a lot, but what’s more interesting is the fact that none of these folks were anonymous-type people—each of these folks made an impact on my staff in some form or fashion.
One, a well-known local businessperson, known for his contributions to the community and care for his employees and family, passed away too soon following the onset of a liver condition. A former dental assistant called to reminisce about him and reminded me of the time I conned her into coming in on a July 4th to recement a crown that had come off. Although she assured him that I would compensate her for her time, about a week later, he took time out of his busy schedule to send her a crisp $50 bill along with a nice handwritten note, lauding her skills and thanking her for her help.
Another patient, the grandmother-in-law of my dental lab’s owner, was the picture of health until she fell, hurting her hip and shoulder, then acquiring pneumonia after the surgery to repair her 87-year old bones. She would be proud for me to tell you that she was a “mountain woman,” having lived her entire life within two counties of Western North Carolina, but creating a world of friends and admirers to augment her large family. She became my friend-for-life after I restored her beautiful smile—at age 82. My lab owner/friend told me that even when she became almost too weak to move, she would have him help her to the sink so she could spend 15 minutes or so brushing her teeth. Too many people coming to visit not to look respectable.
The last patient was, for a time, the bane of my existence. She had incurred extensive dental work—long-span bridges, root canals, crowns—long before she ever entered our practice, over 20 years ago, and it fell to me to begin repairing and replacing her aging dentistry.
A well-traveled elderly woman with an inquisitive nature, her small frame and leathery skin belied a spunky attitude and sharp mind that forever seemed to question my work and rationales for treatment—but not in a distrusting way; she just wanted to learn and understand. She knew the names and numbers of every tooth and came to every appointment with her “Diary of Dental Misery” for which she took copious notes. Every procedure included a defense of thesis with regard to design, use of materials, color, etc., and if you waivered or contradicted yourself, her steel-trap mind would close on you so fast, you wanted to chew your own hand off just to get free. And I loved her for it.
True, we hated to see her coming—we forbade ourselves to even mention her name aloud, because it seemed to invoke her to call (I’m serious!)—but when she did, it always made for a memorable visit. And now, at 88 years young, she’s gone.
The way these people went about living garnered a certain love and respect from my staff and I, and I know they felt this from their extensive circles of family and friends.
Have you made your love today?