Sometimes you have the best conversations by chance and at the most unexpected time and place. You know, those conversations where someone says something to you and you feel as if it was God speaking to you through someone else. Recently I had one such conversation in the doctor’s lounge of my hospital.
One evening on the weekend I was at the hospital taking a short break from my ER shift to eat my dinner. I ran up to the doctor’s lounge to heat up my homemade meal in the microwave. I decided to sit down and eat in the doctor’s lounge to get a breather from the bustle of the Emergency Department.
It so happened a gregarious, perennially happy, middle-aged obstetrician that I had known over the years was sitting there relaxing watching TV. He was the kind of guy that seemed to always have the sun shining on him and would lighten up every room and situation. He smiled his big, friendly smile when I walked in the lounge and we struck up a conversation chatting about taking call and working on weekends.
In his lovable Chicago accent, he asked me about my family and if I had kids. I shared that I had two adorable little ones at home. When I asked him about his kids and family, he told me his kids were grown adults – two boys and one girl. The two boys were now physicians as well.
“Did you tell them to go into medicine?” I asked. Curious if his sons had themselves chosen to follow in their father’s footsteps or if they had been encouraged by him. Then he relayed the most beautiful story.
“You see, I’m a cancer survivor. When my kids were really young, I was diagnosed with cancer and I wasn’t sure if I would live to see them grow up,” he said as he sat up and leaned forward.
“So, I had to really think long and hard about if I died what I really wanted my kids to know and what message I wanted to leave imprinted on their hearts. When it really came down to it, I realized I didn’t care what career they chose or how much money they ended up having. You see, my dad was a plumber and I had a happy childhood and family life growing up. So, I knew that you could be happy and earn a living doing anything really. That wasn’t what was important. I never told my kids you need to become a doctor and get into medical school. But what I told them was they needed to be good people and do whatever it took to get into heaven.”
“Wow, what profound words and a beautiful message to relay to children. To anyone really,” I thought listening closely to him.
“They’ll tell you. I used to be playing with my kids and all of a sudden I would stop and say, ‘Kids, what did Dad say is the most important thing? Yep, that’s right. Be a good person, the kind that gets into heaven,’” he said. “And then I just loved them and enjoyed them and everything turned out the way it did. I beat cancer. I have been in remission for about 20 years. They chose their careers. Two of them chose to be doctors and the other a nurse. And they are good kids. They are really good and happy people.”
This amazing dad, doctor and human had really hit the nail right on the head. What if above all else…above grades, accolades, prestige, scholarships, getting into coveted careers, earning potential, retirement funds and assets…we just focused on the heart of why we are all here on this earth in the first place? What if we focused on kindness, service, doing the right thing and being generous, loving and compassionate? How about we lead a life focused on our spiritual growth and connecting with God?
Perhaps instead of forcing ourselves into a mold, we listen to the guiding voice of God as HE leads us to our passion and higher purpose. And in the case of our children if it happens to be medicine, so be it. If it happens to be something else, that’s perfect too and what was meant to be. Let’s get back to what really matters. What if we began with the end and ULTIMATE GOAL of getting into heaven in mind? Wouldn’t that be an enlightened way to not only raise our children but for all of us to live our own lives as well?
Archana Shrestha, MD is a practicing emergency physician in Chicago. She is coauthor of “The Chronicles of Women in White Coats” and Cofounder of WomenInWhiteCoats.com. She is also an online health and fitness coach. Her healthy living lifestyle blog can be found at MightyMomMD.com and she can be followed on Instagram @MightyMomMD