The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?
A MAN OF GREAT COURAGE
I met Bill, a highly regarded neuro surgeon, while golfing with a good friend. My friend had invited Bill to golf with us on a very hot and humid day. We were going to walk the course that day, regardless of the searing heat from a sun that was piercingly hot. We felt we could and it would help with our conditioning. Bill agreed with us and we set off with plenty of water.
While this might seem like an unusual activity for three people, it was more remarkable because Bill had recently had spine surgery and a knee replaced. Yet Bill did walk the entire course, which required six miles of walking. Bill was hobbled by the effect of his surgeries and each step required thought. Bill didn’t have the normal gait you would expect to see in any person who walked, his gait was labored and awkward.
Throughout the round Bill maintained an upbeat demeanor and hit the ball well. He was slow and the effort of walking with him meant slower steps. Requiring personal patience and letting go of the desire to rush towards your golf ball. We played slow that day, but not too far off a normal time, about twenty minutes. I was amazed that the group behind us didn’t complain or ask to play through. Everyone knew Bill at the course and his story of recovery.
It was for me an honor to be part of this heroic effort. While some might say it was fool hardy, Bill knew that walking would help him recover and he stated so. He knew it would strengthen him and he was willing to pay the price. His doctors had told him it was okay and this was his first round of golf in eight months.
Bill’s backstory as a Neurosurgeon is even more remarkable. He had saved and changed many lives. When others were told there was no hope, he gave them hope. He calmed the spirits of two anxious parents whose child had been diagnosed with potentially having Spinal Bifida. Examining the child on the weekend, his day off, and concluding the diagnosis was in error and the child was perfectly healthy. Saving the parents from a long weekend of despair. This is how Bill lives.
When others were diagnosed with inoperable ailments, Bill took on these cases and saved them. Over a thirty-year career, he operated on the most difficult, spending hours leaning over the surgeons table. He will tell you that it wasn’t the time in the operating room that hurt his back, but the marathons he had run. In fact, he ran the New York Marathon three times.
It was walking slowly with him for four hours that I heard his story. Instead of rushing through the round, I got to walk with a real life hero. By the sixteenth hole, I no longer winced when he walked, but admired.
In the clubhouse after the round, everyone who saw Bill, said, “Hi Doc.” Not just a casual remark, but one expressed with respect to a man who engendered respect. He wasn’t flashy, but in every sentence he spoke, intelligence and warmth emanated. You could tell from his eyes he listened and thought. You were his main interest when he spoke to you.
Bill lives without fear, he does what he should and has to do. He would never complain, complaining would get in his way. He has met every obstacle in life with a serious commitment to excellence. Starting from being a star medical student at the University of Alabama to creating one of the most successful medical practices in the northeast.
My lesson that day was to live without fear or complaint. And I should, God has been very patient with me throughout my life. I saw this lesson in Bill. We all have to do what we need to do. It is our choice, to live without complaint and fear; or give in.
Ailments and fear are part of everyday. They are the thorns of life. They challenge us and seek to defeat us. They try to delay us from our course in life, and only we can choose if they will prevent us from living a full and rich life.
We have a God, a loving God. A God that walks with us through the valleys and mountain tops of life. In the moments of glory we are thankful and praise God. In the valleys, we can lean into God. For God will be there to give us courage.
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman
(Author’s note; Bill is a pseudo name to protect his privacy)
Photo by Ludwig Schreier