Friday was bitter-sweet for patients of Dr. Tom Braddock who has been a healer and a confidant to several generations of families in North Mississippi. He took off his stethoscope for the last time and did what he always does – headed for the golf course.
Dr. Braddock has been my doctor for fifty-eleven years and he never charged me a penny. I bet I’ll have a hard time replacing him. Oh, did I mention he’s also my Daddy? He’s been practicing medicine for 58 years and finally decided to take an extended vacation – the first one in many years.
I had the honor of being his last patient – or would have, if my friend Ruthie didn’t horn in on my time to get a shot. As we had the last “doctor-patient” talk we heard commotion out in the parking lot. Low and behold, about 200 patients had gathered to bid him farewell and honor him on his “last day”.
“Dr. B” went out to hug the adoring crowd one by one. He had so many lipstick colors on his cheek he looked like a clown at the end of the day. You must understand he has practiced gynecology for the past 30 years but still had as many male patients as female. I asked a man in the crowd if he told his friends that he was seeing a gynecologist. He answered, “They are seeing him too!”
Regardless of what they called him, he was a family doctor. Ready, willing and able to treat whatever the malady. Funniest thing is he didn’t plan to be a doctor. He was going to be a Baptist minister to please my grandmother. Then he met my mother who had promised her mother she would marry a doctor. He switched his major from preaching to healing, and he said it was the greatest gift my mother could have given him.
I stood and watched the celebration of a life that made a difference in so many lives. I thought back about the day his hair turned gray when he delivered my first child (I had been a bad patient and developed toxemia. I’m not sure another doctor could have pulled off such a seemless delivery). I remembered him delivering my second son and making me the happiest woman on earth.
I remembered the Christmas that he decided we wouldn’t exchange gifts. He picked the patient that owed him the most money and we took them our Christmas! I didn’t like that at all at the time. Today, I realize that family needed a Christmas in their lives – we already had it.
Speaking as a patient, how do you say good-bye to the person who orchestrated the beginning and ending of life for so many… and with so much compassion. Speaking as a child, I feel so lucky to have shared this space on the planet with him as my mentor and my guide.