Would you cry if your dentist died? You probably would if your dentist had been Dr.V.
A few years ago I decided that I was fed up with my dentist. His fancy office in a downtown high-rise surely was being subsidized in part by my outrageous bills, which my insurance company labeled "excessive". Everybody who worked in his toxic office flashed huge, blinding white smiles as if to advertise their product.
So I asked around. Surely one of my alternative-type acquaintances would know of a good dentist.
And my babysitter suggested Dr.V. He was a holistic, non-toxic dentist who sounded too good to be true.
His office was modest. His appearance was disarming- he could have been a model. During my first visit, Dr.V. himself cleaned my teeth, very painstakingly, I might add. Has your dentist ever cleaned your teeth? I don't know why he did it. Was that just his procedure for first-time patients?
Unlike Dr. Toxic, Dr. V. did not believe in excessive dental X-rays. He did not spin stories of how "you get more radiation from a day of sunlight than from one measly dental X-ray." He simply did not X-ray unless there was a clear reason.
The last time I saw Dr.V., he took a long time to explain the fine points of brushing and flossing. Afterwards, as if to not want to have been offensive, he said, "I told you all that because you seemed interested."
Soon afterwards I received a letter in the mail from Dr.V. He reported that he had decided to sell his practice because he really wanted to teach dentistry at the local university. I was devastated.
Yesterday I received a letter from my current dentist who had bought the practice from Dr.V. It relayed the very sad news that Dr.V had died suddenly.
Immediately I thought of a fact I had come across about dentists having a very high suicide rate. Certainly Dr.V. had seemed unusual......but suicidal? Hard to imagine.
The internet provided many missing pieces to the puzzle of Dr.V. The only obituary I could find was in a Catholic Church newsletter which explained that the 48-year-old athletic Dr.V had collapsed during his weekly raquetball game. Apparently his heart gave out, and attempts to revive him were futile. He left behind a wife and 5 children, and there was a request for contributions to a charity which he had devoted himself to- a Catholic agency which helped people living in inner city neighborhoods.
I found it interesting that this alternative, holistic dentist who didn't believe in casual X-rays had also been Catholic, and that shortly before his death he had made a major life change, switching from practicing dentistry to teaching, his true calling. I was lucky to have encountered him before that switch. In reality, he was already teaching when he was a dentist, I realize as I recall his very lengthy, detailed explanation of proper brushing and flossing technique.
Our automatic reaction to such a death is horror that such a good man died so young. But after thinking about it, I have instead been able to focus on the probability that here's a man who was able to die without regrets, having aligned his life with his beliefs and passions, with his true nature and purpose.