Monday, June 19, 2017

Richard Cho, friend

Dr. Stan Jung first told me about Dr. Richard Cho nearly 20 years ago.  I’d seen Stan as a Chiropracter and fellow Christian, knowing him from his work in Pain Clinics  I had since youth had a gymnastics injury which responded to a simple manipulation but otherwise could cause me irritating upper back pain.  It would eventually go but with an adjustment I'd be relieved instantly of weeks of annoyance.
 I’d learned basic manipulation in my days as a general practitioner studying the works of English surgeons.  In Canada both physiotherapists and chiropractors do musculoskeletal manipulation for pain relief  but my own experience was that Canadian trained chiropractors were the best.
What I liked was the Stan and Richard got together with a couple of other chiropractors regularly and had an ongoing continual journal discussions and hands on mutual support training.  This was seriously advanced. In my field of medicine this is fairly standard in the form of rounds and ongoing journal clubs and continuing medical education.  I was just so impressed to learn that these colleagues took their practice as seriously even though they weren't required to do so.
Stan has a rehabilitation phd as well.  I liked that Richard like him was interested in the scientific studies in his field. I’d later learn that Richard’s mother was a  reknowned medical specialist and researcher in her own right.  The apple didn’t fall far from the tree in that family.
When Stan, who I’d seen every year or so, became more involved in his medical legal practice as an expert witness, he recommended I see Richard.  I met Richard and liked him immensely right from the beginning. His beautiful wife, Reese,  was his receptionist in the Fairmont Willow building where I myself once had an office.  She made me feel instantly welcome.  Years later when I came with my cockapoo, Gilbert, he'd enjoy her caring companionship while I was visiting Richard.
That first time , I filled out a extensive health form then was ushered into Richard’s examination room. I took off my shirt and let him do a simple medical examination.  Then I lay on his table and he proceeded to do the manipulation that would provide me ongoing relief.
He was a good looking young man, more than a decade younger than me.  Shorter and stockier, broad shouldered and very powerfully built. I sit at a desk  writing mostly while Richard all day used his whole body to manage, move and manipulate small to often very big people. One of his areas of specialty was athletes whose muscles would cease up and require deep massage and strong manipulation. He saw lots of the local professional team athletes as well as body builders. I was thankful he was gentle with me.
While he worked he chatted.  He professionally explained what he was doing but he also took an interest in my interests.  That’s how he learned I hunted and I learned that he hunted too but could rarely get away from his work on weekends because of the practice demands.  He was more a competition shooter and loved to talk of attending meets and stationary target practice.  He was accomplished with rifle and pistol.  Having done my share of target shooting I knew well the mental training and even meditation associated with willing a bullet to leave the end of a gun and travel to the bullseye of a target far away.
Richard was a very spiritual man and I shared with him my love of the book, Zen and the Art of Archery, by French philosopher,  Eugen Herrigel.  He knew it and as well knew the more famous Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig.
Motorcycling remains one of my fondest memories of Richard.  I’d crashed a Norton in my youth, swearing off motorcycles well into my 50’s.  Then I bought a Buell Blast at Trev Deeley. Buell had upgraded the design on the traditional Harley motors but was known as well for his more sporty chain of motorcycles, cafe racers and such. Richard had a bigger Buell himself. Hearing the concern I had about riding despite recently acquiring my bike and license, he offered to spend a day riding with me to give me safety advise and check out my technique.
He brought along a biking friend, Ed, from the movie industry.  Ed had ridden dozens of times back and forth across North America on his old Harley chopper and told story after story of riding all kinds of bikes. So there I was a novice with these two accomplished guides leading me off for a day of riding in the beautiful Frazer Valley.
It was a truly glorious day riding with these great guys up these serpentine roads into the mountains and down through the valleys.  Then at high speeds following all the signs we'd blast along the freeway before heading off again cross country.  Overall at stops they'd shared they thought  handled a bike well.  Still they had terrific advice about watching for gravel on country roads and leaning more into the sharper turns.  Richard had a marvellous way of correcting my posture even for riding and doing it in such a way that I didn't feel at all defensive.  I will be forever grateful that Richard cared for me enough to take the time to teach me lessons which have saved my life on the many years of riding I've done since.
Yet that’s exactly what I learned Richard did with everything.  When I told Stan about Richard doing that, Stan confirmed. “That’s just like Richard, always helping the new guy."
I was truly honoured to be invited along with my friend Laura to share dinner with him and his wife Reese at their lovely uptown apartment.  It was a fabulous meal with the best of conversation and one of the most memorable nights of discussions of books and culture I’ve ever known.
Having paid my way through medical school as a professional dancer and doing stunt work for theatre I invited Reese and Richard to join Laura and me at Ballet BC. I don’t think Richard had ever been to the Ballet but he was keen to go and amazed at the power of the dancers.
“The men are like body builders who make it look so easy,” he said in intermission.  He’d been impressed at how elegantly they lifted the ladies. He was astutely impressed by the magnificent agility of their  jumps whose athletic prowess might be well missed by the regular arts crowd.  By comparison Richard was seeing the muscles and joints through the eyes of an athlete and chiropractor. While Richard and I talked about muscles,  Reese and Laura were discussing the costumes and elegance of the dancers.  We laughed at our different perspectives. It was a night to remember.
When Richard’s retired  mother was ill I got to see another side of Richard, the deeply compassionate son who loved his mother deeply and was so concerned for her health and well being. He admired her mind and achievements but mostly he simply loved her.  When she recovered quickly from a minor set back he was again relaxed confident and full of life.  Family and friendship meant so very much to Richard.
It was a shock to learn from Stan that Richard had died.  As a lifelong hunter and gun owner and shooter, getting my bronze shooting award at 12 years old, I knew Richard’s incredible respect for safety and concern for procedure and proper gun handling.  Hearing that he’d accidentally died by shooting himself in a competition meet was as extraordinary as if I’d heard that Canada’s hockey legend, Wayne Gretzky had died tripping over his skates.  It was that inconceivable and bizarre. A truly freak and tragic accident.
Unfortunately a very great loss.  Only 50 years old, Richard was a young man. Known for his good humor,  he was also wise beyond his years.  I will miss him. I know others will too.  He was such a great man and good friend.  I am blessed to have  known him.  Maybe it’s true, “only the good die young’.
Losing Richard I feel we have all seen one of the very best of character and service depart.
I believe in heaven and hope one day to see Richard again, with that great all embracing smile of his. Once again I’d love to hear his laughter. I wouldn’t put it past him either if I arrived and found that St. Peter and all the other apostles were lined up waiting to be blessed by Richard’s healing touch.  No doubt he’d also be telling the buddha he would benefit from losing weight,   recommending  exercises and dietary tips to help him through eternity.
In the words of my Canadian rancher grandfather, Richard was truly a ‘straight shooter’.  He was just that kind of good man.

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