“Thank you God for letting me be a doctor,” was the inscription that Dr. Floyd Carey picked for his tombstone. If you have been in wound care or hyperbaric medicine for a while, you might know his daughter, Darlene Carey. Darlene sent me a link to her father’s obituary and it had a profound impact on me.

There were some things that jumped out at me from Dr. Carey’s obituary. After deciding he’d be a lousy dentist, he went to medical school and then did what most doctors did in the early 1960’s – went into practice after one year of internship. However, he decided that he wanted to specialize in pediatrics and – get this – in 1966, while still in private practice in Georgia, he started a rotating pediatric residency in Memphis, Tennessee, completing residency as Chief Resident while still in private practice. Can you imagine? He then started the first pediatric practice in Pike Co, Mississippi, but made time to be active in the American Academy of Pediatrics, the State Medical Association, the Rotary Club, his church, and the city planning committee – in addition to having an academic appointment, doing community service, and serving on the Board of Directors of Blue Cross. When he left private practice, he served as the pediatric consultant to the Mississippi State Department of Health where he advocated for the children of Mississippi and the practitioners caring for them. He went on medical missions trips to Honduras, Peru, Jamaica and Haiti. Since Spanish was the primary language in some of those countries, at the age of 60 he enrolled in community college to learn Spanish. When he “retired,” he worked at a free medical clinic.

I asked Darlene if I could post something about her Dad because he set such an example and she said, “We should all live like he did – live life to the fullest – never procrastinating –and thinking of our legacy.”

I have read Dr. Carey’s obituary several times, although it’s hard to reach it through the tears in my eyes. It’s the story of a man with his priorities in order who never stopped trying to help people, never stopped using the skills he had, and never stopped learning new skills. I wonder how many physicians today would pick Dr. Carey’s inscription as their epitaph? I don’t think that’s a morbid question. It’s a way of focusing our lives so that we spend time on the things that matter and so that we, too create a lasting legacy.

I think it’s worth asking, “What will you put on your tombstone?”