Happy Father’s Day Big Brother
It’s been a few months over a year since my brother John passed away and I had meant to write a tribute to him then for you my, patients and friends. But time slipped away and now it’s Father’s Day and it occurred to me that this actually is perhaps an even better time to honor and remember my brother, Dr. John S. Cutts DDS.(1946-2016).
Perhaps you will get a little better understanding of how and why I became a dentist. That’s because without a father around he was both my big brother and the one mentor that I listened to most when it came to life’s big decisions. To be honest, he would scoff at that in his typical self-effacing way(while at the same time inwardly pleased) Now, looking back on life I realize that he, in so many ways and times, was watching over me and perhaps most importantly, simply set a very good example for me with his own high expectations and standards. I don’t mind admitting that his passing was a much bigger loss for me than I could have imagined. I should have known, since after all, he was what I just said above-my brother and a father-like figure. But with both of us busy raising our own families and with our careers and interests….well I just took for granted just how big a part he had played in my life.
It was while I was preparing some remarks for his memorial that the idea came to share this with you because even though we are both quite different personalities, I was surprised to discover something important that we had in common- that is how much we treasure our patients as friends. Person after person remarked on how he loved to tell stories to his patients about his family and other friends and it was clear that his patients were, after his family, without a doubt the most valuable part of his life. He loved what he did yes, but it was the warmth and yes, love, that he received from his patients that mattered above all. And so as I spoke to the large gathering and acknowledged the close friends and family, I saved a moment right at the end to acknowledge the very special people he would have so wanted to be recognized along with the rest of us-his beloved patients. When I asked for any patients in the room to stand, a good number of people practically leapt to their feet, proud to be there as his patients yes, but really, it was plain to see, much more than that.
My staff and I talk every day about how lucky we are to have you all as our patients and friends. We honestly think that somehow the most wonderful, genuine, and decent people around must just happen to all come to us! You’ll hear us saying things like, “it’s all about the love!” and laughing at how ridiculous that probably sounds to some people.
But it’s true. With some of you it’s a bottle of wine, or a thank-you card. Or cookies, or fruit jam that you made. Maybe a hand-drawn portrait, a poem (yes!), or simply a “How are You!”-as Louis Armstrong sings. Many of you simply say, “I love you guys”. And there are LOTS of heartfelt hugs in the office. And trust me, that means everything to my staff, and me. Fact-they think they have the best dental job in the world because of you, and I couldn’t agree more!
I’d like to close by taking you to that blustery, cool day in Dinuba, California (where John practiced for over 40 years). Debby and I drove up with the family-all jammed-in together like when they were kids! It was Friday, March 8th and as we cleared the LA traffic at the Grapevine we drove through the heaviest monsoon I think I’ve ever seen in Southern California. Dinuba is about 30 miles south of Fresno and we barely made it in time for the 5:30 start of the memorial service. It was a striking and perfect evening for remembering and honoring my brother. There were beautiful dark rain shower-clusters moving across a sunset sky accompanied by large booms that sounded like a 21 gun salute from battle cannons(we found-out later they were “hail-busters”!) that went on and on without a break.
The service was at the local golf course in a glass-walled event room that looked out over a beautiful lush Scottish-links style course. This is where he played the game he loved nearly every day. I was told by his golfing buddy Rick that another club down the road had lowered their flags to half-mast. Yes, he was a golf-nut to say the least!*
In my remarks I summarized for this west coast crowd some of our early years in Vermont and Maine growing-up on farms. And then I mentioned some obvious things. He went to a college in central Massachusetts and was a science major while playing basketball. Eight years later, I did the exact same. He went to Loma Linda School of Dentistry and married a beautiful nursing student with the same first name initial(Judy). Eleven years later, I did the same (Debby). We both had girls only, and gave them names with the same first name’s initials as our own (Jennifer)(Darcie, Daina, Dannielle, Demie).
And as I spoke of above, perhaps the greatest thing we had in common was you. My brother was a quiet guy who believed actions speak louder than words( I agree). He could communicate much with just a look which I now realize is probably the highest and best quality of a communication. Well, as I remarked to the crowd in the text that you can see below, my brother and I did have quite different personalities. So, I will say it here and now, and in memoriam to my brother.
Thank you for being such a huge part of my life and my staff’s lives. Thank you for all of the hugs, pats, the cookies, the bottles of wine, the poems, the pictures, the how-are-you’s, the cards, the hugs, and yes…..the love!
Dr Cutts’ remarks to family and friends at his brother’s memorial service:
My brother John passed away Thursday afternoon, after outlasting, by two years, the doctors original prognosis in Sept of 2013.
His wife Judy, beloved friends Ludim and Elber Camacho, and I were with him as he peacefully went. John was more than the big brother that I always tried to keep up with – he also played the role of my dad. To say that I wanted to be like him would be an understatement. It began in 1966 and 1967 – he was a blossoming scholar-athlete-
adventurer, just returned from years away at Monterey Bay Academy, and I was a “pesky” (his words!) 10 year old little brother who wanted to do everything he did. We skied Tahoe, road motorcycle on long trips through the Redwoods north of Napa Valley, played football – he enrolled me in Little League (The Scorpions!) And….introduced me to my life long love in sports: Tennis.
It didn’t stop when we moved back to our home area of New England for his last two years of college before dental
school. I watched as he starred in basketball at AUL, achieved academic honors and went on to dental school at Loma
Linda University and married a beautiful girl with the same 1st initial as his, only to be followed with a beautiful daughter with, you guessed it, also the same initial. I took this all in and said to myself “Wow, that looks like a great life.”. And the rest became my version of his. Not that we were the same. John was what some would call A Stoic. He
was Spock, I was Kirk. He didn’t verbalize “I love you” much, but man was he there for all of us anytime we needed him. Every time. John did not use a lot of words to communicate his love and devotion to his family, he had a unique way of saying it all
with a look, the tone of his voice, through his eyes. Sometimes I would wonder whether he was still watching over me, caring for me like he usually did. Years ago I got my answer when I bumped into a mutual friend; Dan Newbold. After some small talk he remarked “ I saw your brother John, and he went on for quite a while about how well you are doing, accomplishments and basically bragging on about you!” I was taken aback, I thought “He’s never told ME all this!!!”.
Of course, that was John, oh yes, he loved you,was proud of you – be he would tell everyone else except you! And that is 100x true for his beloved son-in-law and greatest joy, grandson William. About fourteen years ago I heard a torrent of conversation from John about this guy Robbie. He was smart, athletic, handsome as George Clooney, successful AND he was hopelessly in love with and marrying his daughter Jennifer (who is a beautiful, talented composer, singer – well you get the idea!!!). I remember remarking to Debby (somewhat jealously) “Sounds like HE should marry this Robbie!”.
It turned out Robbie and Jeni are all of these things and more, and have brought the greatest satisfaction and joy that a father of a girl can possibly have. Since a picture is worth a thousand words I’ll close by describing this picture below.
Appropriately, it’s all about the little boy in the middle nailing another jumper over my outstretched arm as his granddad boxes me out in perfect rebounding position. The three grown-ups are frozen and all eyes are on him. I cannot begin to describe the joy, price, pleasure and love that William, age 7, has brought to John and me. And everyone he meets. That day he fearlessly lofted and hit one jumper after another just over my outstretched hand. It was just him and his “Bada” as he called John, against Uncle David and his son-in-law – you guessed it, Robbie (yes, we both have sonin- laws named Robbie..). We played on for nearly two hours or what I now realize were John’s last weeks. How he did that? Well I think THAT itself was John’s love his beloved family, sport and life – al happening right in front of us. How do I thank him for all that he has done for me? Including his incredible family that he leaves behind? I did say “Thank
You” and “I love you” Thursday afternoon. But to be totally honest, I think it was all “said” better in that basketball game, on that cloudy December afternoon. My brother would have had it no way better than that. To your life well-live brother.
P.S. We ended the evening with our own ‘salute” as about 15 people launched a volley of lit illuminated golf balls that streaked off into the night sky!