March 11, 2016
Moore Mission Moments - The Watershed Group
Lives That Inspire
by Patti Moore
Ask anyone who had the honor of working with the late Dr. Robert "Bob" McCollough, M.D., and chances are good they’ll share a story about his kindness, his insight, and the respect and gentleness that informed his interactions with everyone around him, from patients and their families to his peers and co-workers. Here’s mine:

The Student and the Teacher

Today I sat at the feet of the teacher, once again absorbing lessons of great importance; not the lessons that you learn in books or labs or research institutions, but the lessons of life as they’re taught only through the wisdom of the dying.


Today I sat at the feet of one of the finest men I know; Dr. Robert McCullough who was the first full-time medical director at Haven Hospice. He is quite simply a remarkable human being, conducting his life’s close exactly as he wants it, and it’s a beautiful thing to witness.


Just before Christmas I received a call from Dr. Bob informing me he had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer with a sudden onset. He was just calling, he said, “people who have met so much to me in my life” to let them know. I could see his sweet, kind face in my mind’s eye as he calmly told me of the step-by-step plans he had taken to get things in order. He said that he hoped he could see me before he died.


For the past three weeks I have been acutely reminded of why I love this work. Being privileged to sit with someone facing death, someone who has no fear and speaks of the things that matter most in life, is a rare gift.  Somehow, Dr. Bob and his wife have the idea that I am helping them by sitting with him while she runs her errands. What I so keenly realize is that I am the receiver of the care and the love and the wisdom he has to offer - and what a gift they have given me!


Today, as in each of the previous visits, I get to sit with Bob alone, without distraction.  There is no need to fill the silence with trivia; I can simply be present with him. We talk of medical things only briefly – pain and bowel movements and nausea – but once those formalities are finished, he asks me to read poems by Mary Oliver. How can he know that Mary Oliver is my favorite poet, and one I’ve long neglected?


I begin with my favorite poem, Wild Geese. With his eyes closed and a small smile on his face he listens with his entire self. There are tears in his eyes as he asks me to read it once more.  “How can a poet put so much beauty in one line?” he asks. I concur.


Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.


The next poem, Sleeping In The Forest, is so beautiful I can barely finish without my voice cracking. The opening lines are:


I thought the earth remembered me,

She took me back so tenderly

Arranging her skirts

Her pockets full of lichens and seeds….”


I think of the beautiful earth, soon to be embracing Bob’s frailties and taking him back “…so tenderly”, and am near to weeping.


On this visit, I have the privilege of relieving Bob’s discomfort with a simple backrub. That humble action feels more like divine intervention flowing through my hands to this dear person whom I love.  Last week it was a foot rub that he did not particularly enjoy. In today’s fast-paced electronic world, the power of human touch has been diminished. But the teacher allows me to be reminded today of the power of a poem and a simple back rub, and I am grateful.


People facing death can be our greatest teachers. Their lessons may not come with lightning speed, or in conventional ways. But they often come straight from the heart, and are more lasting than any other lessons we can learn.


Thank you Dr. Bob.
Dr Bob McCollough and Patti Moore at his retirement party in 2008
Dr McCollough and Patti Moore at his retirement party 2008

Researchers are reporting something that many of us in hospice and healthcare have seen for ourselves; doctors refusing the kinds of aggressive end-of-life treatments for themselves they often push for their patients. An overwhelming percentage of the 2013 doctors surveyed for this study — 88.3 percent — said they would choose “no-code” or do-not-resuscitate orders for themselves, according to the Stanford University School of Medicine study – and that disconnect is something we need to better understand and resolve, according to VJ Periyakoil, MD, lead author of the study and clinical associate professor of medicine.


 You Might Also Enjoy…this TEDTalk by architect Alison Killing, who talks about how the way we die is changing – and why architecture needs to change to reflect that new reality.


The life-changing small miracles that great hospices like Treasure Coast Hospice perform on a daily basis so often go unsung; this story’s a couple of months old, but I promise it will inspire you to think about the kinds of miracles your organization does and can do!

I will be traveling to Derby, Connecticut to visit with the Planetree Organization this month. I’ll also be visiting Texas and Maryland, and conducting a Board retreat and Senior Leaders retreat, along with an organizational assessment.  Hope to see you along the way!

The Watershed Group
Phone: 352-495-2800  |  Fax: 352-495-1810
Having trouble viewing this email? Click here
If you no longer wish to receive our emails, click the link below:
The Watershed Group 5745 SW 75th St #323 Gainsville, Florida 32608 United States (352) 495-2800