Adieu to a Much-Beloved Village Doctor

December 24, 2020 at 11:30 am Leave a comment

Dr. Alain Grizot, Essoye’s beloved village doctor

I knew fairly early a few mornings ago that someone in our village must have died, because the way the church bells rang at 8:00 was not the usual way. They were tolling, not just ringing the hour.

So I checked the Facebook page for our village, and that is how I learned that the person who had died was Dr. Grizot, and that there would be a funeral mass for him held in our village church that afternoon.

Essoyes is lucky to have a village doctor. Many communities in rural France do not have doctors living in their communities. We have one now, and we were also lucky to have had Alain Grizot as our village doctor for many years, until he retired a few years ago.

I didn’t know Dr. Grizot very well, but I knew him a bit, because several times he was the doctor who cared for members of my family. I also encountered him several times after his retirement, at cultural or heritage events that he was participating in, and so was I. One was the annual memorial hike led by Guy Prunier, in honor of the French Resistance unit, the Maquis Montcalm, based in nearby Mussy-sur-Seine. Another was a guided walking tour led by the staff of the Maison Renoir here in Essoyes.

A few years ago I asked Dr. Grizot if he would be willing to sit down with me and answer some questions about his career as a village doctor. It was my intention to publish the interview on this blog but I was not able to do that, mainly because the interview was very long, and in French (so it required transcription and translation, both very time-consuming tasks), and thus difficult for me to find the time to do it. And now, sadly, I don’t even have access to the recording because it has become locked in an old computer that I can’t get into anymore. (This made me sad before every time I thought about it, and it makes me even sadder now. ) If I can find a way one of these days to recapture that interview, I will eventually do what I intended to do in the first place: which was to publish it as one of a collection of occasional essays and interviews I am posting, as I am able to do so, to feature the lives and the work of some of the citizens of this town, and their contributions to the life here.

However, I do remember a few things from that interview that I can share here. I remember that although he came here, I believe as a young man, a new doctor, and then spent the rest of his life here, he was not born and raised in Essoyes. I vaguely remember him telling me that he came from somewhere in Burgundy, a fact that seems to be confirmed, or at least strongly suggested, by the fact that he was to be buried in Nolay, a village south of Dijon. I remember also that I asked him what was the hardest thing about being a doctor. And while I can’t remember his exact words, I remember that before he answered he looked both thoughtful and sad, and that he said something about how hard it was to see people who he had cared for as little children die as young adults. I believe he said something specifically about car accidents.

Village doctors, and family doctors in general, are becoming more and more rare individuals in our modern world. The amount of training required is considerable, it is ongoing, and the compensation is not what it should be, certainly not comparable to the compensation specialists can expect to receive. Though in general health care in France is much better than in the U.S., this is a problem here just as it is in the United States. I think we talked a bit about this too, about how hard it was to have enough doctors when the sacrifices asked of them are as great as they are, and the rewards insufficient for all but the most dedicated, and those able to survive on the very modest amounts they are allowed to charge for their services.

We did discuss this a bit, but it was in the context of how this a problem not so much for doctors (though it certainly is that), but for the public. What I remember most about that interview was Dr. Grizot’s intelligence; the way he spoke about current and evolving medical issues knowledgeably and with genuine interest, even though he was retired from the profession. He talked for a long time, and seemed to be very happy to have been asked to talk about his work. The other thing that stood out was his compassionate nature, which was evident as he talked about the people he had cared for. That is what seemed to matter the most to him.

So, I would say that one way to honor Dr. Grizot is to remember how much he cared. And to do what he would want. I think he would want everyone to take good care of themselves (“prenez soin de vous“), to carry out, as it were, the work that good doctors everywhere do when they take care of us.

And to drive carefully. An especially good time of year to remember these things.

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature who divides her time between the U.S. and France. She is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You, and is currently working on her next book, a literary memoir entitled “A Long Way from Iowa.”

Entry filed under: About Essoyes. Tags: , .

Allègement de confinement and freedom of the press… Bonne nouvelle année from Essoyes

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