A Letter to my Sons

Today I attended the memorial service for Dr. Keith Amos, the UNC surgeon who operated on my sister on May 20 and died on June 17.  Dr. Amos came very highly recommended to me by a colleague of mine at UNC and although it was the deadly week between Christmas and New Years, I begged my friend to get Alice an appointment with Dr. Amos asap and she did it.  We got to see him in January in record time and he was immediately impressive to me. He had an air of calm and quiet confidence and ability that was both reassuring and believable.  I remember hoping that Alice liked him as much as I did. He was thorough in his exam and planned her care for the following months.  When he performed her surgery, he came into her before she was rolled into the O.R. and assured her that all would be well, marked her chest with “yes” and “no” so the correct breast would be taken and when we were surprised he said, “Welcome to America.. this is what we must do here.”  He told her that he would take good care of her, smiled his heart melting smile,  and I believed him with all my heart.  
 
I sat amongst the 400+ people attending this service today and felt that I was amongst some of the most talented and well educated men and women in one place gathered from Xavier U, from Harvard Medical School, from MD Anderson, and from UNCCH.  About a dozen fellow surgeons from around the country got up and spoke and the things they said about this man were stunning.  When his mom died from breast cancer while he was in his teens, Keith got it in his head to make a difference in the world of cancer. He was from Minden, LA and very poor, yet, he took advantage of every possible opportunity he could and was driven and competitive to the extreme.  He studied and researched everything he could find and graduated with honor after honor.  Keith became a renowned surgeon and was literally scooped away from Anderson to UNC just six years ago.  
 
One of the surgeons who was at the podium struggled to speak through his tears.  Like most of their colleagues they remain in shock and disbelief over losing this 42 year old fine human being in his prime. They struggled to look in the front row at his three darling daughters and beautiful and accomplished wife who is a prominent lawyer, as they too, wept.  But of all the incredible things I heard today, this one surgeon’s words took my breath away and caused me pause.  I thought of all of you when he spoke and was writing this email in my head all the while. There were over 300 messages written on the memorial wall that UNC posted this week.  Some were from friends and colleagues, some from relatives and many from patients This surgeon brought his teenage sons along just so that they could get an idea of the kind of man that Keith was and the kind of man he wants them each to become. The posting that this surgeon quoted is as follows:
 WILLIAM EVERETT
Posted June 27, 2013 at 3:31 pm Permalink

I DID NOT KNOW DR. AMOS PERSONALLY, BUT HE SOUNDS LIKE A MAN I WISH MY SON TO BE, MY SON WANTS TO GO TO MEDICAL SCHOOL, ALSO WANTING TO BE A DOCTOR, I HOPE HE GOES THE SAME PATH AS DR. AMOS, MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU ALWAYS. YOU ARE A DEFINETLY A ROLE MODEL FOR OTHER AFRICAN AMERICAN MALES.

What I want to say to you is this– Live your lives to the very fullest… live every single day as if it may be your last on this earth….You are each very, very special and very gifted, but do not simply coast through life keeping those gifts to a minimum or to yourselves.  Become the very most you can become and share your talents, your knowledge and your unique empathies with others. Keep educating yourselves and never stop.  Make a difference in the world and at the very least make a difference in as many lives as possible. Be a man, be a son, a brother, a husband and a father to the very best and kindest and most loving ways possible. Do not be average. Be special and be awesome and live a life thinking about what you hope will be said about you at your memorial service some day.  One thing we are all guaranteed in life, is that someday we will each be memorialized and I too, can only hope that each of my sons do the work here on earth that makes a difference and brings a deep happiness to each of your hearts.  With love, your ever proud, Mom
 
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