There has been death around me. I don't understand it, but it is here. A giant change is coming over...me...the world...
I just came home from a Memorial Service for Dr. Mike Daly. He was a local surgeon, and my friend Elizabeth's husband. Mike Daly, among other incredible accomplishments, I just learned, was the Scottish doctor immortalized in the movie, "The Killing Fields." Stories of his Red Cross Surgery Team work in Cambodia were captured in the book and movie when Mike refused to evacuate as the Khmer took over the country.
Here in Iowa, he taught the art of medicine to Family Practice residents, and did three thousand surgeries in the Virginia Gay Hospital in Vinton, Iowa, some of which he would not have been allowed to do in Cedar Rapids because of the ultra-specialization of physicians here. He believed and trained family doctors to do cutting edge procedures, unlike any training they can now get in the U.S. He was instrumental in creating the new nine million dollar endoscopy service and facility in Vinton that is unique and will be exemplified this November at a professional conference by Dr. Brian Meeker.
In August, I went to see Elizabeth, my friend and Vice-President at our locally owned Bankers Trust. I admitted it. I need help. My life is changing and becoming crazily unmanagable with the lymphoma of my sole support, Gregg my ex-husband. I told her about my difficulties, how I was struggling against crippling depression, taking one day, one hour, at a time, and she said...yes...I can't even get out of bed some days...did you know that Mike died suddenly after just one month of illness?
Two professional women, strong financial managers, one of us dressed impeccably, both burst into tears in Elizabeth's glass corner office. I think I hugged her but I don't know how, with her huge desk between us. I had no idea. I was in my own stupor, stuggling to stay afloat, to manage my finances and life so as not to lose everything. She was in her private chaos. When I talked to Gregg about it, he said that Mike had an aortic aneurysm, and what they did for him in Houston is exactly how he would have treated him here in Cedar Rapids...Gregg is an interventional radiologist who treats aneurysms. It was too late for Mike. And Gregg is battling his own blood cells with the lymphoma, hoping for a stem-cell transplant.
The service at Christ Episcopal was beautiful, with Mike's sisters, collegues, and youngest daughter Louisa who is now working in Kabul, Afganistan, telling of Mike's gentleness, compassion, and competence. Of his ability to put things into perspective. Mike loved his life as a surgeon, and had a full and awesome career.
Mike's three daughters, just a little older than my/our three daughters sat with Elizabeth. Louisa told of her pride in her parents and their accomplishments, and of Mike's parenting style that 'forced us to make our own decisions,' and how Mike lives in each of her sisters. All three daughters have traveled the world, working from Iceland to Africa, and are making a difference. I wonder what Gregg's three daughters will/would say of their father when the time comes? I hope the best.
Talking to Gordon Baustian after the service, he said what all of us were thinking... none of us can believe Mike is actually gone. As we filed out of the church, we sang "Loch Lomond," and then listened as the organist played the joyous, "Scotland the Brave."
I wrote to the family...We each leave our mark on the world whether a small painting hidden in a cave in France, or a larger than life billboard of accomplishments like your husband and father. You are so lucky to have had him in your lives for this time. Many doctors never know their children. I salute him and you for what you have created together. May you all have comfort, joy and peace in his memory.
With love and humility,
Carol V. Berg