My kids’ pediatrician died on Christmas Eve. I’m only just writing about it now because I only just found out. We are all reeling, maybe me more than the others. He was a good man, a kind man, sweet and utterly capable.
He was present when both my children were born. Each needed some time in the NICU; with both he wrapped them up for the first time, the first person to really hold my children, and carried them to me, where I lay on the surgery bed.
"Kiss your son," he said. "Kiss your daughter."
I didn't have a moment's fear as he carried them off to NICU. He had them. They would be fine.
He brought all his brand new patients balloons in the hospital the day after they were born. I still remember him coming in with with each of my kids, wearing one of his amusing ties, cartoon characters or a holiday theme, smiling at me, handling my infants with confidence and love. Sometimes I wonder if he didn't love infants best, though he dealt with my son as he grew with respect and care. When my daughter was a baby he’d come get her and carry her around as he visited his other patients.
"Who will take care of me when I'm sick?" my son asked me last night.
I didn't have a good answer for him.
He was soft spoken, gentle, and firm. He focused on the children, asked them questions, talked to them about how they felt (rather than just getting the parents' translation), listened to their little stories. It all felt like teachable moments, especially with my son, who wasn't able to verbalize what was wrong with him until he was in middle school. He talked to each of my kids about their sibling, showing by his interest how fortunate they are to have each other.
I think with adults he wasn’t always quite so easy; it didn’t matter because he was a phenomenal doctor and the kids loved him. They trusted him.
It’s an odd thing, loss. Of course it’s selfish; I’ve lost one of the people that
made me more secure as a parent. A good pediatrician is like a rear-guard, always there, ready to step up when things get scary. Such security is a rare commodity to parents.
But I also am sorry because he was not an old man. He had a lot left to give as well as a lot of life left to live. But I for one am richer for having known him, and for having had him teach me about living well and parenting well, too.
RIP, Dr Nelson. You will be missed.