Last night, my friend died. Dr.  Howard Leslie was 49-years-old and lost a long battle with melanoma.  We had been partners in practice for 17 years.  It’s hard for me to imagine that he will not be back in the ER, joking and laughing, eating pretzels, practicing medicine with talent and compassion and fuming at injustice, drug seekers and all who wasted his time without actually wanting his help.

A practice is like that; it leaves us connected, feeling that all is well as long as the others can share the load with you.  Well, a proper practice, anyway.  It’s a family, in which good things and bad things occur.  Your brothers and sisters sometimes bug you and you bug them; but you see them for the amazing people they are.  And woe to anyone who messes with ‘the firm. ‘

I guess Howard was rather like a big brother to us.  He was a kind of anchor, a rock, an Alabama -loving, golf-playing, child-adoring mountain of a guy who would do absolutely anything for someone who needed it.

Over the years that we practiced together, as with so many of my partners, I was always terrified that I would disappoint, or seem weak, or less skilled than he.   If I was, he would never have said it.

Howard is a Christian; and the point of that verb tense should be obvious.  What I believe, what Howard now knows, is that that  our desire to beat death, our desire to go on, exists for the simple reason that we do.  I am confident that I will see him again.  He rested in that hope in his final weeks.  In the hope that he would not leave his wife or children forever, but only for a while.  Now, I walk  in that hope as well.

And for all I know, thanks to the vagaries of time and timelessness, thanks to the mercy of God and the work of Jesus, it will only be a moment before we are all together again, laughing and telling stories, content that we will never face another crazy night or overwhelmed waiting room.  Only a moment…

But here, ah here; it will seem like ages.

Rest in peace, brother.  See you before you know it.  I’ll take up golf in heaven, just so I can play with you.


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