Dr. Fernandes all about family

Funeral services for the Maple Ridge physician were packed, writes columnist Jack Emerberly

We were born to unite with our fellow men, and join in community with the human race – Cicero, 106 BC.

Funeral services for Dr. Clarence Fernandes, who died suddenly of a heart attack, were 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16.  But, when the Lord’s Prayer was recited inside St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Maple Ridge, most of us who’d gathered to say goodbye were standing outside the building.

We waited heavyheartedly, remembering the man who’d dedicated his life to our well-being for four decades, and became an integral part of lives that often spanned generations.

You felt like a friend if you were a patient of Dr. Fernandes. He never began an examination without a warm smile and a friendly chat.

“What have you being doing since I saw you last? Still jogging?”

Dr. Fernandes topped rankings on rateMDs.com.  Patients praised him for exceptional skill and knowledge, and for his humanity.

Comments include: “caring; warm and compassionate; wonderful bedside manner; made you feel you were his most important patient; never a rush.”

Patients of Dr. Fernandes knew he liked them.

As we wait to get closer to Dr. Fernandes one last time, some of us in this line  will picture the benign face of our friend and healer looking gently upon us, or be revisited by this happy man’s joyful laugh that flowed like water through waiting room walls.

Others might glimpse Dr. Fernandes tapping between shoulder blades with two fingers, pressing gently on a stomach, or peering behind an eye at optic nerves that would confirm or eliminate something he suspected in his investigation.

Dr. Fernandes could uncover the cause of any complaint I took to him for 33 years. He was the Sherlock Holmes of GPs.

But more than that, he was a counselor from whom I had no secrets because I trusted him completely and knew that his only purpose was to make life easier for me.  He was also a source of encouragement.

“I read everything you write,” he told me once. “Keep it up, and don’t stop jogging.”

According to an usher near the door, St. Luke’s seats 400 people, but 1,000 members of Dr. Fernandes’s extended family attended his funeral.

Family. That’s how one of his three sons described their father.

He told us about the times he found his dad working on his medical charts at 2 a.m. He would work 16 hours a day without complaint.

“My dad didn’t think of his work as a job. He thought of his patients as his family,” Aalton Fernandes said.

Many of us who attended remember Dr. Fernandes as a special friend, capable of random acts of kindness.

On one occasion, my wife Janis and I bumped into Dr. Fernandes on a Saturday at a local restaurant. He was picking up a sandwich to take back to his office, he told us. The office was closed. Dr. Fernandes  wanted to catch up on his files. After he’d gone back to work, the waitress handed us a gift card for $50. “From Dr. Fernandes,” she said.

This solemn line of close-knit family wound backward through the overfilled church parking lot. Late arrivals who joined it had to dodge traffic on Dewdney Trunk Road after parking their vehicles in the grocery store lot.

Among Dr. Fernandes’ silent flock were older people with canes, a few in wheelchairs, and young couples with small children who were probably brought into the world by Dr. Fernandes. I recognized doctors who knew and worked with him. A man in work clothes joined a woman behind the anesthesiologist who assisted Dr. Fernandes in my son’s delivery 24 years ago.

Adlerian psychology teaches that a mentally healthy individual must have a sense of belonging and purpose in society.

Dr. Fernandes, a model of social service who knew that, and was loved for his dedication to the well-being of others.

Like Cicero, he believed that is what we are meant to do.

 

Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.

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