Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Much-Needed Prescription

With four children, the oldest age six, the twins age four, and the baby not quite a year old, it was no wonder the mom felt frazzled, and she looked it too. Holding her youngest on her lap while the pediatrician checked the baby’s ears and listened to her heart, the mom allowed herself to relax a little in the chair. A sigh, one of those involuntary sighs that she was famous for, chose that moment to escape. The doctor scooted his wheeled stool across the room to his desk, and picked up his prescription pad. He smiled at the mom. “Baby is doing fine. But I’m going to write a prescription for you, Mom.” He scribbled a few lines and then handed her the slip of paper. She read it over.

“Are you serious?” she said.

“Yes,” was the smiling and emphatic reply.

The prescription read: “One weekend with [your husband] and without children at my vacation cabin on Lummi Island.” 

In the four years that her kids had been under this doctor’s care, she’d seen his kindness, patience, compassion, and gentleness with them, as well as his skill as a physician, but to be the recipient of his generosity and obvious concern for her mental well-being brought tears of gratitude. She felt that the weekend away did much to help her hang onto her sanity. A move to another state shortly after meant a new pediatrician but she always thought of him as the best one her kids ever had.

Thirty-some years later she read on Facebook that a certain Noemi Ban, holocaust survivor, would be giving a lecture at Western Washington University about her experiences. Always interested in knowing more about this, she signed up to attend, along with her sister. She pondered the woman’s last name. It was the same as that of the wonderful pediatrician who cared for her children. Could they be related? 

If you haven’t already guessed, I was that frazzled mom. It was this past week that I went to the lecture. And there was the pediatrician in the front row proudly watching his mother, at the age of 94, talking about having hope and love, instead of hate, even after suffering so dreadfully at Auschwitz. I spoke with Dr. Ban for a few minutes during intermission. I said, “You must be so proud of your mom!” He smiled and admitted he was. I went on to express my gratitude for his care of my children, and of me with such an unusual prescription. He said he recalled that occasion and how my husband had done a little carpentry work for him on the cabin to help defray our medical expenses with him as well. He asked about my kids. Then giving me a hug, he thanked me for connecting with him that evening. 
My sweeties, 1984

Hearing and reading Noemi Ban’s story (Sharing is Healing, a Holocaust Survivor’s Story with Ray Wolpow), I realize that it was she who influenced her son to be the kind and generous man who took a personal interest in his young patients and their parents. She raised her children to love life and to overcome hatred, a much-needed prescription in our world. I know my children were just a few out of the hundreds who were benefitted in part by this one woman. I feel blessed to have heard her say, “Life is for living. I love life!”