Why aren’t Norwegian jokes funny, timing? He loved comedy. He considered the real meat of the newspaper the comic section. He would start laughing after just hearing the names of Ole and Lena. He was great with one liners. My Mom would often ask him, “Why don’t you ever tell any stupid Swiss jokes?” His response, “because there aren’t any”. On first impression, he would come across as cold, serious, strictly professional and intimidating. Once you got to know him he, came across as warm, compassionate, a complete goof-ball and someone that people would migrate to.
Some words just don’t sound good together. Words like projectile vomiting. Words like explosive diarrhea. These words are tragic. How about these words: Your Dad has Alzheimer’s, and diabetes, and cancer of the pancreas and liver and lungs. These tragic words make projectile vomiting sound funny. I told him that Alzheimer’s Disease did have privileges – he could hide his own Easter eggs.
He was one of those people who was good at everything. Though many people are alive today because of his gifted, healing hands, he never claimed any glory for himself. He always claimed he was only given a gift of setting the stage for a place God would perform miracles. Little did he know that the final act was going to be his own life. Setting of that stage started 85 years ago. His life was a place where God would perform things so amazing that you would have to see them to believe them. Scenes would flicker, back and forth, between tragedy and comedy and tragedy and comedy.
At Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul, he studied death. He always wanted to see the true facts of human existence, no matter how ugly. He was constantly seeking the truth. He wanted to see life as it really was. He searched for something we all have in common. He didn’t want a censored view of reality, not a neatly typed autopsy report, not a watered down version of what really happens. Not a body banked with flowers and placed gently into a pretty coffin. He wanted to see life as it happens. Full strength and maximum dose. Death to him had no power to freeze his heart, jangle his nerves or sway his reason. Death to him was no terror of the night but a day lit companion, a common condition, a process obedient to the laws of science and answerable to scientific inquiry. Death was a diagnosis. After one year of examining death under a microscope, searching for the cause of death and meaning of life, he turned his energy to the living and bringing new life into the world. He delivered thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of babies. His personal best was 17 babies in one day! When he got to 10,000 babies, he didn’t stop working, he stopped counting and kept working for many years. He finally realized that everything in life and death can’t be rationally or scientifically analyzed and understood, but could only be explained as a mystery and accepted with faith. He once wrote on the last line in a patient’s chart: “Discharge diagnosis: Miracle- Period.” He told me that as complex as modern medicine is, there are 2 rules. #1 is people die, #2 is doctors can’t change rule #1.
Dr. Daniel Degallier was many things to many people. I’m proud to say that, to me, he was just my Dad. I couldn’t have had a better one. His final moment on this earth was not delivering a baby and placing it into the loving arms of its mother, but, actually was being delivered himself and placed into the loving arms of the Father. Timing.