When Suffering Visits
By Steve Goodier
One of Canada's most famous physicians was Dr. William Osler. Many stories
are told of Dr. Osler, but one of the most revealing comes from World War I.
Friends recalled the day when he was working in one of Britain's military
hospitals during the war. He was called out of the wards during his daily
rounds to be given an important message; his own son had been killed on the
fields of France.
Stunned by the news, he still came back to pick up his rounds. For a long
period afterward he was noticeably different. And those who knew him best
said that he changed as a physician that day. The cheerful note was gone
from his voice and never again did friends hear the tune which he so often
whistled as he went from ward to ward.
Though these things never returned, something eventually came to take their
place. Everyone noticed a new compassion in his care of the soldiers who
each day streamed in from the battlefield. Before, he had the professional
concern of the physician, so important to the practice of medicine; now
there was an added discernable note of a personal compassion, like that of a
father for his son....
Osler was understandably hurt and, like most people who have experienced
such losses, he likely became angry. In time, after working through pain and
anger, he found a way to integrate the loss into his life. Though he was
never the same, he chose not to let his son's death turn him into a bitter
and resentful man. Instead, he channeled it into energy and love for others,
caring for them as he would care for his own.
Helen Keller wisely said, "The struggle of life is one of our greatest
blessings. It makes us patient, sensitive, and Godlike. It teaches us that
although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming
Osler teaches us something about overcoming suffering. It can leave us
bitter, or quite surprisingly, it can often leave us better. More patient.
More sensitive. More compassionate. And a little more like how God must
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