Dr. Tom Dooley was an American physician who worked in Southeast Asia at the outset of American involvement in the Vietnam War. While serving as a physician in the United States Navy and afterwards, he became celebrated for his humanitarian and anti-communist political activities up until his early death from cancer.
Dr. Dooley was a man whose deep relationship with God motivated him to abandon a soft career in the United States for a desperately difficult mission overseas. In the end that relationship enabled him to die victoriously at the age of thirty-four. Here is the letter which on December 1, 1960, he wrote to the president of Notre Dame University, his alma mater:
Dear Father Hesburgh:
They’ve got me down. Flat on the back, with plaster, sand bags, and hot water bottles. I’ve contrived a way of pumping the bed up a bit so that, with a long reach, I can get to my typewriter.
Two things prompt this note to you. The first is that whenever my cancer acts up a bit, and it is certainly “acting up” now, I turn inward. Less do I think of my hospitals around the world, or of 94 doctors, fund-raisers, and the like. More do I think of one Divine Doctor and my personal fund of grace.
It has become pretty definite that the cancer has spread to the lumbar vertebra, accounting for all the back problems over the last two months. I have monstrous phantoms; all men do. And inside and outside the wind blows. But when the time comes, like now, then the storm around me does not matter. The winds within me do not matter.
Nothing human or earthly can touch me. A peace gathers in my heart. What seems unpossessable, I can possess. What seems unfathomable, I can fathom. What is unutterable, I can utter. A God Touch
Because I can pray. I can communicate. How do people endure anything on earth if they cannot have God?
Lent is a time for all of us to reflect on the meaning of our lives.
Dr. Tom Dooley died soon after he wrote this letter at the age of 34.