A doctor, who was a great help to me, died yesterday. In 1989, Dr. Steven Alexander got me to specialist who solved a problem that had dogged me until then. More importantly, Dr. Alexander made me realize that my health wasn’t his responsibility; it was mine. I couldn’t just coast and say, “Fix me, doctor” whenever I got sick. I had to take steps to be well. He essentially pushed me out the door and said, “Start walking.” And I began to walk two miles every morning, rain or shine. And I am still walking every day, almost 30 years later.
I didn’t know, until I read his obituary this morning, that Steve was born in Berlin, and when he was just three fled Hitler’s Germany with his parents. Most of the family did not escape, and died in the Holocaust. Steve grew up in Homer, N.Y., went to college and medical school and became a doctor. His first “practice” was a MASH unit in Vietnam; I remember seeing a grainy, color photo on his office wall, of Steve at work, saving a life in a poorly lit tent. He received the Bronze Star for his service.
When I read his obituary, I couldn’t help but reflect on the Nazis marching in Charlottesville, chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” I believe that replacing even one of those marchers with a compassionate physician, a Bronze Star winner who saved the lives of American soldiers in Vietnam, a good man who helped so many others, would be a step in the right direction.
Steve made a huge difference in my life. I didn’t enjoy being sick but it was a pleasure to see him whenever I was. He was open, honest, engaging and funny.
Thank you, Steve. I will always be grateful.