When first I met Dr. H he was walking toward me across the small parking lot from his office in Boise, ID. I was early for my appointment, so my husband and I had sat in the truck to wait a bit. I still couldn’t drive. He must have seen us. As I climbed out in my knit hat and sweatpants, he offered his arm, the old-fashioned gesture of a gentleman. I tucked my hand in. He was tall with gray-blonde hair and a warm smile. We walked without speaking to the door, past the receptionist’s desk and the photo wall of athletes he had coached, to the single recliner in the corner room. We had never spoken before, but when he looked in my eyes, he knew me . . . and I, him.

I was anxious, feeling vulnerable, exposed. Months of chemo and radiation had emptied me. On the intake email I had told him that I wanted to be well again, and hopeful. I barely talked, except to answer his few questions. I listened. Then I leaned back in the recliner, closed my eyes, while he told me a story in a calm, low, rhythmic voice . . . “Now, I don’t know how far away or following you’ll be that you’ll be listening to this . . . that day that you sat in that room and you leaned back in that chair . . .” He told me a story about breathing color in, and about the beautiful white blood cells rushing throughout my body, cleansing, renewing, restoring . . . I would listen to it at bedtime many more times, often falling asleep.

We met two more times that spring, once, after I had shared some of my writing with him. I surprised myself sharing it, yet had felt compelled to. I wrote, “Because we are friends—” when I emailed the document. A day later, I sat in that same chair and he told me a story about a woman who was once a girl in a cabin by the lake who became the grandma in that very same unchanged place—pieces of my story interwoven with his. I trusted him. I imagine that is how all of his patients feel, known and safe. I remember when my daughter-in-law made that first appointment for me, her words, “He reminds us of Grandpa O somehow.” Yes, a man without guile. That was five years ago.

The most “whole” people I know are those in whom the gap between the “ontological” self and the daily self is the smallest. The Latin “integer” means untouched; intact. In mathematics, an integer is a whole number. The people I know who are intact don’t have to worry about their integrity; they are incapable of doing anything which would break it.”  Madeleine L’Engle—Circle of Quiet

This spring I visit his office again for a chiropractic adjustment. It has been so long that I must fill out the ream of New Patient pages on the clipboard and have my blood pressure taken. It is high. The receptionist shows me to the treatment room. On the far wall of this sunny room where I sit, a painting captures my eye. Dr. H comes in while I’m looking at it. “I love your painting.”

“What do you think it is?”

“Water maybe . . . I don’t know. I never try to figure out what a painting is. I just know whether I’m drawn to it or not.”

“I will do water – beautiful, blue water.”
― Claude Monet

It is eye level, this painting, horizontally rectangular. And it is blue. Blue on blue on blue. Transparent blues. I think of ice, big cubes of ice, but it doesn’t feel cold. It is abstract and geometrical, its own entity, rather than a representation. . . These thoughts as he settles on a high stool at his computer screen to review my intake information. Again, I am emptied, caught in a swirl of worry, heartache, pain, anxiety, fatigue. Recovery from winter illness has been slow at our house. I had almost cancelled the day before . . . since just beginning to address my needs seemed overwhelming. Perhaps we would discover it was all my fault. But I knew I needed to come.

I think God wants us to be whole, too. But maybe sometimes the only way he can make us whole is to teach us things we can learn only by being not "whole."  Madeleine L’Engle—Circle of Quiet

We talk for quite a while. There are so many pieces to the puzzle, some of them serious. I think about the other patients in the waiting room whose time I may be taking. It is a busy morning. He adjusts my back and hips, then has me sit facing the window to adjust my neck. He comes around and looks at me then says, “Ahh . . . I’m going to get a mirror so you can see this.” And later, “My father always said that if you really listen to a patient, he or she will tell you what is wrong.” He tends to every last concern that both he and I have. Gives me instructions for my part. “Day by day . . . a little better.” I leave relieved and grateful, knowing this meeting was divinely appointed. Thank you, Lord.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.  ―from the Hippocratic Oath

A week later, at a follow-up appointment, I look at the painting again as I stand to leave and he readies for his next patient. “Did you paint this?”

With a half-chuckle and smile, “No . . . if I could paint like that I wouldn’t be doing this.”

“Yes you would.”

How beautiful it is to watch someone doing exactly what he has been gifted to do. When the gift has been honored and honed until it is finely tuned, fully operational, an accessible tool in his hands. When the gift eclipses the man. How blessed we are when we can participate in the healing that happens because of it.

Am I doing what I was gifted to do? Am I still honoring that gift? Honing it, fine-tuning it so that it is fully operational in my hands? Are people becoming healed and whole because of it? I’ve been pondering that these past few days. Perhaps that means I’m beginning to get well. Little by little, day by day.

Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing, to declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. —Psalms 92:13-15 

May I encourage you? Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Thank you, Dr. H.

“Blue is the only color which maintains its own character in all its tones. It will always stay blue.”
—Raoul Dufy, Painter

2 thoughts on “Blue

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