Bruce Leibert, M.D.
Tough as leather. Hard as nails. Tough nut to crack.
Mr. J. could be described by these colorful idioms. He spent his life drinking, fighting, fuming, and fussing.
And cussing. “This (expletive) government can’t get their (expletive) act together…”
He is broad-shouldered, wide faced, and tall. He fills the space. What he doesn’t fill with his body, he fills with his words. He likes to get in close and ram his point home until his opponent capitulates. He never backs down and he never backs off.
He has never been in a hospital, let alone the ICU. He doesn’t like it. He wants a good long drag on an unfiltered cigarette. He is antsy, irritable, and irked.
“Howdy Mr. J!” He glared at me. “I’m Dr. Leibert…we met a few years ago…” No response. “…at the family practice clinic…” No response.
“When can I get out of this (expletive) place? I was up all (expletive) night. They wheeled in some nut-case next door who screamed all night, and some sick person in another room who moaned all night. Why am I in this intensive care unit, anyhow? I’m not sick like them. I heard it was because this (expletive) place has no other beds available. Now how could a big (expletive) place like this not have any other rooms? That is just a (expletive) shame…”
I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I tried another direction. “You still live down by the river?”
“No, I live about a mile away from the public landing. Been there for thirty years. I like it out there. Not many people out there to bother me…” He gave me a pointed look. “You should see the view out my back window…” I pulled up a chair and made it clear that I was settling in to listen to his story.
As I listened to him, the Sermon on the Mount came to mind. That sermon makes me uncomfortable. “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:46-48)
That passage is hard enough to read, but trying to put it into practice is like me trying not to roll my eyes when my patients try to sell me on their essential oils.
Funny though, as Mr. J shared story after story, I found that I liked the fellow. He is a colorful raconteur. He appreciates a good audience. He gave me a needles-eye opening into his spiritual life and I offered to pray with him and for him. He agreed to join me, without hesitation. The prayer went something like this…
“Father God, Mr. J and I come before you, only because of the work that Your Son, Jesus did for us in dying for our…”
“Who’s dying? Me or Jesus?”
“…Jesus…He laid down His life so that we might die to sin…”
“You know that I’m not dying, right?”
“…yes, sir, we are dead in our sins, but Father, we praise You for making a way for us…”
“Don’t be rushin’ things, Doc, I’m not ready to go.”
“…no sir…so we come asking for healing for Mr. J…”
“Don’t brow beat me, now, Doc..”
“…no sir…in Jesus’ name.”
I ‘m not sure that this disjointed conversational-debate-prayer rang the bells of glory, but I lived the moment with joy.
“I hope that made you feel better,” Mr. J smiled.
“Mr. J. you gave me a wonderful gift. Thank you.”