Some people at the visitation, that I hadn’t seen in a while, mentioned that I still looked good – can’t imagine why they would say that. Then it occurred to me that it must be because I’m wearing Karl’s shirt, tie and shoes. If any guy here would like to have a pair of Karl’s shoes and is about a size 9 they are welcome to come to the house and pick, first come first served, and Karl would be pleased.

I initially wasn’t going to say anything today, mostly because I wasn’t sure I’d make it through it. I had heard the audio of Karl’s White Coat speech right after he delivered it two years ago, but I didn’t see the video until just two days ago and was inspired by him to mention some things today about which he felt strongly. The White Coat speech is the inspirational talk given by a senior classman in medical school to the first year students to arouse them and motivate them to achieve lofty goals – climb the mountain, so to speak. Karl was chosen by his classmates to deliver this speech. Maybe you saw and heard him – it was playing during the visitation. If you missed it, it is on the web site that the kids put together that is shown on the back cover of the Remembrance booklet.

First off, Karl would feel very uncomfortable with all the words of praies and good things being said about him – he’s a humble kind of a guy. Next, as his father I’m here to say that despite everything you’ve heard and may have read in the obit Karl was not perfect. Occasionally he would be cranky – we had an expression of Mr. Crankypants for anyone that was irritable – you know it’s like if the pants fit, wear them. Sometimes, on a variety of topics like religion and politics he and I would go round and round – maybe I was Mr. Crankypants or maybe both of us.

Something that he felt really strongly and was somewhat outspoken about was people who whine and complain. He would say don’t complain – do something about it. He certainly always tried to follow his own advice if he could.

You hear stories from people about how certain things in this life are “not fair.” I heard a story the other day about how kids will say “not fair” when they are the only one out of many that gets caught cheating on a test or using a fake id. But in fact, they consciously chose to do what they got caught doing. Something like cancer could be said to be justly “not fair” – there was no conscious decision that he made to bring that about.

He was also dealt a very serious blow in 2005 that could be considered “not fair” when a somewhat rare autoimmune reaction to a viral infection in his eyes (AMPPPE) left him almost blind for a few days and afterwards stabilized with him still having a blind spot in each eye very close to his central vision. He didn’t just whine and complain – he did something about it. He adapted to his eye-sight handicap. He was out of school for three weeks but still finished the semester and graduated med school with honors.

The point of this is that he never said it was “no fair.” He never said it was “no fair” when he was struck by and became debilitated by cancer. He also never whined or complained about the pain and suffering that goes with that disease especially when it attacks the bones. He suffered through many treatments in trying to beat the cancer. He was always trying – the first word from him that he might not make it through the cancer didn’t come until the day before he died.

He wanted to do more than just be a good doctor – although that certainly is plenty. He was something of a rebel when it came to medicine – one of his strongest passions was to reform health care. In that regard he didn’t want to just complain about it – he had a vision of what a good health system would be like and dreamed of actively working to achieve that. He thought that he would have been consulted by Obama before he launched his national health care initiative.

One of his heroes was Paul Farmer who established Partners in Health to serve many in third world areas. He had issues with the US health system, he would have liked to combine features of the US and foreign, primarily European, systems, which was one of the reasons he traveled to Cuba with Luke to check out how, with such a depressed economy, they could have a better reputation than the US in some areas of health care. Mostly though he had a sincere empathy with the people of the poverty stricken areas of the world that had very minimal or non-existent health care, and that’s what he wanted to roll up his sleeves and do something about.

Being the avid climber that he was, is the perfect metaphor for his White Coat speech and also his life’s goals. He was always trying to reach the next out-of-reach hand or foot hold, to go ever higher, to drive and persist to achieve his altruistic goals – but always with a quiet humility that spoke even louder. Truly, he is my hero.