Head Home Previous Next Last

Scratch One Off My Bucket List

Ray Blain is a retired pediatrician and medical consultant, and author of a forthcoming autobiography Becoming A Doctor; My Dreams and Nightmares.

One of my favorite places in the world is Greece. Our cruise ship stopped at the scenic port of Katakolon, we boarded a bus and were taken to the clinic of Asclepius—the legendary ancient physician. The guide explained that the clinic was part gymnasium and part health clinic catering to curing both the mind and body which were thought to be interrelated with regard to health and illness.

Our next stop was the Theater of Epidaurus According to our guide, this fabulous amphitheater was built in two parts, starting in the fourth century BC. The seating capacity was between 13,000 and 14,000. The acoustics were considered exceptionally good.

Some time around 100 AD, the theater was buried during an earthquake—which were not rare in Greece. This quake was fortuitous because the theater was buried in earth. About 400 AD, another quake buried the area in mostly rock. Without the protective soil covering the falling rock would have wreaked massive destruction on the theater structures. Instead almost all of the seating area was preserved although the buildings behind the performance circle were damaged.

After the site of the theater was rediscovered, excavation began in 1881. The theater is a favorite tourist stop because of its beauty and renowned acoustics. I stood on a circle of marble in the center of the round performing area. Facing the huge semi-circular seating tiers, I spoke one word at a normal volume. Within seconds I felt the echo hit me on the sternum like being hit by a tennis ball. Each time I spoke the sound returned to that spot. People in the upper seats indicated that they could hear me clearly. I was overcome with the thrill of being in such an ancient outdoor perfect theater.

While in the eighth grade in 1955, I gave a brief talk on the new radio-with-pictures invention called television when our small city acquired a local station in Holyoke, Massachusetts. During my four years at South Hadley High School I performed in oratorical contests on stage and multiple plays by Shakespeare, Molière, Cornelia Otis Skinner, and others—usually typecast as the romantic lead, fool, or physician. My greatest wish was to perform in a musical, but my timing was all wrong and we never did one.

Finally, here was my chance, not to do an entire musical, but to sing my favorite song from The Man From La Mancha. I began with some trepidation but finally let my heart flow into the music and lyrics of "The Impossible Dream." The song has since been a great motivator for my behavior. What wonderful ideas are expressed: to try to make a positive difference by helping others, to even march into hell for a worthy cause, to try even when your arms are too weary, to never give up trying to do the impossible if it will mean that the world will be a better place for even one person.

I got to sing my favorite song from one of my favorite musicals in a theater with perfect acoustics that was famous 2,400 years ago! Scratch that one from my bucket list.

There are other things on my list that can never come true now, like a date with the first girl I cared for when I was a teenager, like taking my wife on a trip up the Amazon, or an African safari, over to Paris, Rome and back to Ireland.

Our poor response to Covid-19 has made Americans unwelcome in most parts of the world eliminating most of these wishes. I will probably be too old and my health too poor to travel by the time we get our public health problem under control.

But I got to scratch Number One off the list and my life has been otherwise productive and mostly positive. Best yet I have gotten many opportunities as a physician and human being to try to live up to "The Impossible Dream." You should try it some time if you haven't already.

~ Raymond Leo Blain, M.D.














Last page
Next page
Previous page
Home page