The Immigrant

I just came back from the memorial service for a man of Chinese descent who grew up in Malaysia during WW2. His parents were forced to dress him up as a girl so would not be taken away to Japanese work gangs. For five years, due to war-time shortages, the family ate nothing but a little sweet potato and occasionally some rice.

He was very intelligent, however, and attended school when it was possible to do so. After the war he came to Australia and studied medicine in Melbourne. For fifty years he practiced as a GP in my local town on the Mid North Coast of NSW. Together with his wife, he raised his children here and became part of the community. I was lucky enough to be a family friend.

The memorial service was an open mic style event where locals expressed their point of view of his contribution and passing. I heard how this man had sat at children’s bedsides through the night until their fevers broke, at how he had saved thousands of lives through a talent for diagnosis, at how he would attend the public hospital, free of charge, at any time of the day or night. I heard how he fought for specialists to visit his out-of-the-way town, and how he used acupuncture in conjunction with modern medicine to bring pain relief. I heard of his wit, his interest in people of all walks of life, and the friendship he gave to his work mates and staff.

Not one person called him a bloody immigrant. Not one person said that he should have gone back to where he came from.

 

 

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