Here is my column in this month’s Emergency Medicine News, for those of you who don’t receive that publication.
Here is the link to the online version of the magazine:
Think of this as a prototype, friends. Reword it to fit your family, read it to them, and let them know how very much you love them! And why you do what you do.
To my children,
You probably wonder what I do when I go off to work at the hospital. This letter is to help you understand. So first and foremost, let me explain, little ones, that what I do is this: I think of you all day and all night. Before I leave, I kiss you and hug you, whether you are asleep or awake. I pray for your safety and joy. And then, when those most important things are done, I go off to work with the smell of your skin on my hands, the look of your face in my eyes and the sound of your breath in my ears.
I work for many reasons. I work to provide for you; to make sure you have food and clothing and toys. I work so that we can take vacations together. I work so that we can have a house. And I work so that one day you can go off to school to find your own calling in life.
Work is very important and very noble. I go to work because it is my duty to you. I don’t live to work, because work is far less important than your smile alone. But I work to live, so that our family can survive and grow.
I can tell you, as important as my work is to our life, it’s always hard to leave you behind. When you look at me with those eyes and hold your hand out for me to touch, I want so very much to stay behind, to hold you, to find some way to be with you around the clock, seven days a week, 365 days each year. That would be awesome! I wish that I never had to kiss you on the cheek, slip out into the cold, dark night and leave you in the warm covers. I wish that I could pace the floors of our home while you sleep, watching over you like an angel. I can’t do that, even though I would love it! Besides, the real angels need the work.
On the other hand, I know that you need to see me work, so that you will understand it when you are older; so that you will see the necessity and glory of work well done. Don’t let the world fool you. We all have work to do, and we must do it. This will one day include you. If I could work but did not, and if I stayed home while taking money from others who did work, I would be ashamed. Ultimately, you would be ashamed of me as well.
So now, that’s why I work. You must wonder, dear one, what I do when I work. Isn’t that so? Well, when I go to work I try to keep other people, and their kids, healthy and safe. I go to work because people wreck cars and fall down, they break bones and cut their hands. I go to work because young people get hurt in fights and old people have hearts that grow sick over the long years of their lives. And because people often become sad and try to hurt themselves. I go to work because dogs and snakes and bugs bite people. There are many more reasons I could tell you, but I won’t, because that would make my letter far too long.
See, I go to work because people’s bodies are frail and need sometimes to be fixed; and because people sometimes become so sick or injured that they might die. Darling, I go to work so that if they are sick or hurt, they have a chance to be with their little girls and little boys after they’re better. And if boys and girls are hurt, so that they can go home with their parents to play, laugh and love. Do you see?
I spent lots of years in school to learn how to help people who come to me with sick or hurt bodies. I have skills to do things to help them. I enjoy using those abilities, and I enjoy knowing that those people I help have a chance to get better. Doing those things makes me very proud; I hope you can be proud of me too; even as I’m always proud of you, and brag about you to my friends (and sometimes patients, too).
Please try to remember, even as you miss me and I miss you, that all of those people I’m treating at the hospital, night and day, are either someone’s children or someone’s parents. And everyone wants to go home at the end of the day. My job, love, is to help see that it happens.
Of course, you’d think I would always be happy, what with a job like that! But because you are very smart, you know that sometimes I come home and I’m not happy. I’m sorry about that. You mustn’t ever think it’s because of you. You are my delight. It’s just that people can be very difficult. They take pills they shouldn’t, and drink things in ways they shouldn’t. They tell fibs to get me to help them when they don’t need help. They have habits that make them ill. They sometimes speak badly to me and make my work more difficult.
But here’s the secret I’ve learned; most of the time when people are bad, it’s because they’re lonely, scared or hurt. Often, it’s because their mommies or daddies weren’t good to them, or didn’t teach them how to behave. So, just as you’re patient with difficult kids you meet, I have to be patient with the people in my hospital.
When I am kind, when I am careful, I sometimes make new friends, or at least show some sad or mad person that someone, at least once, was nice to them. I hope you’ll learn to do that in your life. You never really know what a difference it will make. Only God knows, in the end. So you and I have to do our best to act in love toward the people we meet; at work or at home, at play or at school.
Dearest, the world can be a scary place sometimes. My job is to make it a little less scary, so that people who are scared have a place to go. You know, the way you come to my room, or hold my hand, when it all seems overwhelming. Or like when you wreck your bike and have a cut, when you fall and break a bone, or when you have a fever and feel just awful, and I’m the person you expect to fix things.
Maybe, in some ways, when I go to work and have to leave you for a while, I’m being kind of a papa to other people, who really need one for a while. You’re kind of sharing me a little, for a few hours, with other kids who need some attention. I hope that’s OK.
Because no matter what, no matter where, no matter when; no matter how busy or how tired I may be, understand this:
I love you with all my heart, and no one else is ever going to be more important to me, than you, light of my life!
Your Doctor Papa