A surgeon’s perspective on life and death

Great to have trauma surgeon Dr. Greg Cambell back on the podcast today.

I found this picture on the internet.  He’s going to love this pick because it’s a picture of him when he was younger.  To quote comedian Mitch Hedberg “Every picture is a picture of you when you were younger.”

Here are Greg’s notes on the subject. Some great quotes here. I’ve also included Jacks story of the first funeral he ever performed. Great info in this podcast

I see death every week. Trauma kills more people under the age of 40 than any other illness.

So sudden is death in Trauma, no one has a chance to say goodbye. No expects that phone call from me the police, or social worker telling you to come to the hospital there has been an accident.

Families are grief stricken when they are informed. I personally will not tell a family a member has died unless I have security around me, as they have attacked doctors in the past when they hear such news.

A younger person death seems more unsettling than an older person. “ They never had a chance to experience life”.

A family with a functional healthy life will allow a family member to have a death with dignity.

A family who lived their lives in dysfunction will have a dysfunctional death. Dysfunction till the end so sad to see.

A good life deserves a good death.

Question? Do these families believe in heaven? If not I can feel the panic the end. For those of us who believe in Christ we know this is another beginning. Our whole basis of faith as Christians rests on this belief. (Jack’s input here)

Part of my ministry is guiding people thru the death process of their loved ones. Reassuring them that the decisions they made today were humane and they can be at peace as they relive this moment each for the rest of their lives.

True story:

Over the Holidays a friend from work 49yo was out jogging and died. It hurt me to think about it. He was just like me a Doctor, divorced, remarried, trying to be a good husband and father, stepfather. He loved sports and was pleasant.

Now what? His kids are still in school. His wife now alone.

Kobe Bryant Death

Death should make is reflect on the life we are living. If we take the time to do so we can see if the life we are living will tell a story or at least a story worth telling.

Knowing we are all going to die is the greatest motivation to live” Steve Jobs

Death is the one aspect of life that we all share
Black vs White
Male vs Female
Rich vs Poor
Christian vs non
BAMA vs Auburn

Everyone dies but not everyone really lives.
This statement leads me to think of David Brooks book. “The Road to Character”

“Recently I’ve been thinking about the difference between the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the ones you list on your résumé, the skills that you bring to the job market and that contribute to external success. The eulogy virtues are deeper. They’re the virtues that get talked about at your funeral, the ones that exist at the core of your being—whether you are kind, brave, honest or faithful; what kind of relationships you formed.”

“Most of us have clearer strategies for how to achieve career success than we do for how to develop a profound character.”

“To nurture your career, it makes sense to cultivate your strengths. To nurture your moral core, it is necessary to confront your weaknesses

Above are Excerpts From: David Brooks. “The Road to Character.” iBooks.

My thought: What will people say about you at your funeral?
If they lead with topics such as leader of industry, an excellent surgeon, he or she grew company’s bottom line by 40%. This is a missed opportunity to have a profound life where we leave a legacy.

It is Not what we did for a living but we did with our life. How did we honor God with the time we have here. We make a living by what we GET we make a life by what we GIVE.

There is never roof rack on a hearse
We cannot take it with us.

In the end no one ever says I wish I would have spent more time at work. This is tremendous wisdom so why wait until it is too late to live that life now.

Sometimes in this life we get so caught up in our work that we forget to really live, and try to leave a legacy. If we choose to live the life Brooks writes about above. How do we know it will pay off for us? (Jack is this a question for you to consider discussing this as a litmus test of our faith?)

Below are quotes from Mary Neal MD an Orthopedic Surgeon from Wyoming who died under water while kayaking in South America. then came back to earth. Her book is titled, “To Heaven and Back”

“My experience changed me profoundly in both spiritual and religious ways. I now know the promises of God to be true, that there is a life after death, and our spiritual life is eternal. While recognizing the limitations of organized religion, I fully participate in and support it.”

“One of the several reasons for my return to earth was to tell my story to others and help them find their way back to God. During my initial recovery, I was invited to share my story with small groups in my community and these people shared my story with their friends and family. As it was spread to many parts of the country, I was often told of the profound impact my story made on the lives of the people who heard it. In the process of sharing, I realized that my story does not really belong to me, but to God and is meant to be shared. It has inspired many people, stimulated discussion, and has often resulted in a rejuvenated relationship with God. It has lessened people’s fear of death and increased their passion for living a full and meaningful life. My story has deepened people’s faith and given them hope for the future.”

“As He held me, Jesus took me through a short review of my life. If I had any preconceptions about death, it would have been to assume that a life review would be the stereotypical image of one’s life flashing before their eyes. That is not what my experience was. I was shown events in my life, not in isolation but in the context of their unseen ripple effects. It is easy for us all to see the impact our words or actions may have on our immediate surroundings, but to see the impact of events or words dozens of times removed was profoundly powerful. Through this experience, I was able to clearly see that every action, every decision, and every human interaction impacts the bigger world in far more significant ways than we could ever be capable of appreciating.”

Excerpt From: Mary C. Neal, M.D. “To Heaven and Back.” iBooks

I Greg Campbell have said for years, “They shot Kennedy on Thursday and they played NFL football on Sunday. I am not JFK.”

How it makes us feel when we even think of it
Your biblical knowledge about why we should not be afraid of it. How we are going to rise again.
Knowing Heaven exists in books I quoted (for any doubter) or in your own belief.
How that knowledge of #3 should help to choose a Godly pursuit with our life.
This choice of eulogy virtue living will give us all we want, more joy peace and purpose. Like you said before, “Who doesn’t want that?”

Jacks First Funeral

It’s impossible to fit the accomplishments of a man into a few minutes time.  Especially when that man is Berle.  He was born in Olney Texas, and for seventeen years got to enjoy the innocence of youth.  Friends, sports, and I’m sure a few girlfriends.  But boys born in the 1920’s didn’t get to stay naive for long.  World War 2 saw to that.  So at the age of 17 Berle put his countries needs above his own and joined the Navy.  Berle was going to have to grow up quick.  A bootcamp sargent would see to that.  After basic training and flight training, Berle had to prepare himself to take part in the what would have been one of the bloodiest battles in our countries history.  The invasion of Japan.  I can’t imagine the anxiety, fear and courage he must have had to develop to prepare himself for battle.  But two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war before the attack.  So Berle went home and faced an even scarier proposition.  Marriage.  In the mid forties Berle met his bride to be, Shirley.  After falling in love they were wed on Christmas Eve.  Berle had settled down his adventures were far from over.  Using the GI Bill to further his education, he enrolled at the University of Arkansas and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.  This would be his ticket that would allow him soar once more.  After college, Berle took a job at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber company in Akron Ohio.  Doesn’t sound too exciting does it.   Well there would be more thrills than the smell of burning rubber.   Berle Brown was to become a test pilot for the Goodyear blimp.  After several years floating above the clouds, Berle moved to San Diego to work for General Dynamics.  There he took another low key job.  He was a tester for ejector seats.  He also enjoyed the thrill of testing experimental aircraft at Ryan Aeronautical.  He eventually wound up at Rohr Aircraft in Chula Vista were he finally retired as chief test engineer in the early 80’s.

The greatest measure of a man is not in degrees or military rank or blimp rides.  It’s in the lives of his family members.  Jan and Donna remember their dad’s soft spot for animals.  He could never say no to any animal that the kids brought home.  Cats, dogs, guinea pigs, turtles.  You name it.  Jan remembers that at one point, including two litters of kittens and one litter of puppies, the animal total reached 27. 

The kids also remember seeing the Goodyear blimp floating across the sky in elementary school.  Berle said he used to fly it.  So naturally the kids asked, “Do you think we could go for a ride?”  Berle made a quick call and made the arrangements.  How many dad’s can brag that they took their kids for a ride on the Goodyear blimp?

When I wrote this funeral I showed up expecting to see a room flooded with people to honor this super hero, war veteran, blimp pilot.  However, when I arrived there were a handful of people including his children, none of which were willing to stand up and honor their father. They closest they could come to praise was to talk about how much Berle liked his dogs.  What a perfect example of the difference between resume virtues and eulogy virtues.